Mountaineers picked third in NECC

BENNINGTON — A seventh-straight trip to the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) postseason tournament is on the line for the Southern Vermont College women's soccer team this fall as the Mountaineers gear up to begin their 2017 campaign.

The league announced the results of its preseason poll on Thursday with SVC being selected to finish third in the Conference standings.

"My first expectation is that we continue to build our culture," said seventh-year SVC head coach Michael Zauzig. "It's been a focus the last couple years, and I'm really seeing an impact. The team needs to push the culture and work to create the best environment for each other to be successful. We expect to be back in the playoffs and host another playoff match. We have a tough schedule, but I know the team has the quality to do that. Ultimately, I want to know that the players, the team, and the program have moved forward when the season ends."

Southern Vermont went 8-6-3 overall in the regular season last year — including a 5-3-1 mark in NECC play — to earn the No. 4 seed in the tournament and a first-round home game. The Mountaineers' playoff run was short-lived, however, with a 3-2 loss to fifth-seeded Bay Path University.

"I don't think there's any denying that last year's ending has impacted our training and attitude," continued Zauzig. "Bay Path had an excellent game plan and executed it, but there's no denying we were extremely disappointed with the last 72 hours of the season. We want to make sure that this season ends on our own terms."

Zauzig sees 12 players return to the team with five of those earning All-NECC honors in 2016; he also welcomes in six new faces to the program, including five freshmen.

Among those coming back to play for the Mountaineers is senior goalkeeper Melissa Mascari, who looks to cap a stellar career between the pipes; in her three previous seasons at Southern Vermont, she has been named to the All-NECC First (2014), Second (2015), and Third (2016) Teams while also collecting four weekly Conference honors. Mascari is already the school's all-time shutouts leader (16) and sits just four wins shy of tying the program's all-time victories mark of 29.

Also returning for Southern Vermont are junior captain Molly Madore, junior Sydnee Julian, and sophomores Dani Biggers and Taylor Mallett. Madore, the team's all-time leading goals (28) and points (66) leader, has been selected to the All-NECC First Team in each of the last two seasons while Julian, a solid staple in the Mountaineers' backfield, was named to the NECC All-sportsmanship Team a year ago. Biggers was the 2016 NECC Rookie of the Year, and Mallett landed a spot on the All-NECC Second Team last season.

"I'm mostly looking forward to time with the team — on and off the field," Zauzig said. "There is tremendous energy on the team to start the season. The players are setting expectations and pushing each other to be better each day. `All-in;' the players must be `all-in' with everything we are doing. We need to make sure that we focus one day at-a-time and pay attention to the details. We need to live in the moment and enjoy each day. We must get better each day and push each other towards excellence. The vibe on the team is great; it's going to be an exciting and extremely enjoyable year."

The Mountaineers are set to begin the regular season on Sept. 1 with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Penn State-Altoona. The first game that SVC will host is against Lyndon State College on September 6 — a contest under the lights that will be part of the Manchester College Soccer Series at Applejack Stadium. Southern Vermont begins New England Collegiate Conference action at Lesley University on Sept. 16, and the Mountaineers' true home opener on Everett Field will be against Clark University on Sept. 19.


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