Forging into summer training camp, Manhattanville coach David Turco’s vision of the upcoming season was one of clarity: build on a solid 18-win season, remain active in the top 10 rankings, and most importantly, challenge conference rival Norwich for the ECAC East title.
For the Valiants however (6-5-1 overall, 4-2-0 ECAC-East), who spent the first six weeks in the top 10 before slipping away, Turco’s preferred scenario has taken a slightly different path: a loss to unranked conference foe St. Anselm, a sobering defeat at home to Nichols (3-8-0), and a number of results that lacked the punch of the 2012-13 season in many aspects of the game.
Going forward in 2014, the Valiants are undoubtedly still in the mix for the top slot, but Southern Maine and a much improved Castleton team are well within reach of them. Norwich leads the conference, and while St. Anselm is currently in second, the Hawks play in the ECAC Women’s Open playoffs with Holy Cross, St. Michael’s, and Sacred Heart.
A year ago, the Valiants concluded with a 14-3-1 conference mark, while Norwich topped the standings with a 16-2-0 record. Castleton placed sixth and Southern Maine followed in 7th, with both teams finishing under the .500 line.
While the preseason predictions stating that the status-quo was intact at Manhattanville, the internal changes said otherwise.
“We lost nine seniors and my starting goaltender didn’t return, and I didn’t know that till the end of the summer,” said Turco. “We were scrambling, and were still trying to find out who our starter was, so there were some difficulties at the outset.”
Junior goalie Kirsten Shaughnessy has seen the most action in the Valiants’ net (2.26, .915). Freshman Dana DeMartino has shown promise in backing up Shaughnessy, starting in four contests with a 3-1-0 record and a 2.25 GAA.
Among the seniors that Turco alluded to are forwards Katie Little, Mary Lynn Morrison, and Alyssa Taylor, who finished as the top trio of scorers last season. In all, they combined for 68 points and 25 goals. Now, Turco, who is in his third season with the Valiants, looks to juniors Sydney Asselstine, Alla Traun, and Michele Meggiolaro to provide the bulk of the offensive push. All three are on pace for career-best seasons.
“We are just so young that we are running into consistency problems,” said Turco. “One day we are raring to go, and the next, we don’t seem like we are ready to play. Even now at this point in the season, we are still struggling to find our identity.”
Senior defenseman Caitlyn Beauvais agreed with Turco’s assessment of the volatility of going into the grind with unknown parameters, saying, “A lot of the freshmen have picked up on it. We’re gradually finding out who we are. We had a little downfall, but we are all committed to changing that.”
Manhattanville returns to conference play Jan. 17 with a home game against Holy Cross. Before that occurs however, they’ll get their second look at No. 1 Plattsburgh. The Cardinals took a slim 1-0 victory in the first meeting between the two clubs at the East/West Showcase, last November.
Turco’s squad opened the second half of action with a 4-1 road loss to Bowdoin before whitewashing Stevenson, 4-0, last Tuesday afternoon at the Reisterstown Sportsplex.
“I think if we’re winning games they are going to be the scrappy, one-goal type,” said Turco in relation to challenging for the conference title. “We will build where we can. It’s a confidence thing with a young team. The better they are feeling, the better they play. We have that opportunity, no doubt. Hopefully the tough (nonconference) schedule will warm us up once we get back to conference.”