Team takes DII program to a new level
Dan Dolan has been through plenty of peaks and valleys in his time as the head women’s soccer coach at Daemen College. The program’s all-time leader with 99 coaching victories, Dolan has presided over the team during a critical juncture in its history. After experiencing success as a member of the NAIA and later within the USCAA, some lean seasons followed as the Wildcats made the transition to NCAA Division II, something that is not uncommon as teams tackle the challenges of adjusting to a new level of competition.
There were hints of what was to come as Dolan meticulously built the program into a contender within the East Coast Conference. The NCAA Division II East Region A 9-7-1 campaign in 2017 was the team’s first winning year at the new level, followed by an 8-8-1 record in 2018, which included a program-record five East Coast Conference wins and their first-ever conference tournament berth at the Division II level.
Those achievements paved the way for a historic 2019 season. They opened the season with five-straight wins, the best start in program history, and went unbeaten through their first eight contests, matching the program record for consecutive games without a loss. They finished with a 4-2-2 mark in East Coast Conference play, and for the first time were awarded a bid to the NCAA tournament. That announcement, which was made in a Selection Show broadcast on NCAA.com, set off a raucous celebration amongst team members at a watch party held on campus at The Den.
After learning the team’s NCAA tournament fate, Dolan said, “It was wonderful to see the pure joy and excitement on the faces of our players. I’m so proud of them. I extend much gratitude to the committee for seeing our body of work and choosing us an at-large team.”
Although the season came to an end with a 4-0 loss in the opening round to nationally-ranked College of Saint Rose, there was still reason to celebrate a fantastic season. The Wildcats finished with an 11-4-3 record – their most wins since 2012 – and set team records for shutouts (8) and goals allowed during the regular season (13).
It was also a historic run from an individual standpoint. The Wildcats saw four players – senior forward Jamie Boyar, senior midfielder Lindsay Ciaramella, junior defender Sam D’Agostino and sophomore midfielder Grace Stranahan – achieve All-ECC honors, the most since Daemen joined the league in 2013.
Boyar was the unquestioned offensive catalyst en route to her third All-ECC selection, as well as All-Region nods from the Division II Conference Commissioner’s Association and the United Soccer Coaches. After setting the Wildcats’ single-season goal-scoring record with 20 tallies as a junior, she came back with 18 more in her senior campaign. None were sweeter than her final two. She scored twice in Daemen’s regular-season finale, a 2-1 defeat of Saint Thomas Aquinas College, marking the 54th and 55th goals of her career, passing the program record of 54 set by Kim Walker from 2003-06.
While attentions will ultimately turn to the future, the players and coaches of the 2019 team, as well as those of the last several years, can look back and know they played an integral role in establishing Daemen’s program at the Division II level.