When an intercollegiate athletics program is started, it often takes time to experience sustained success. When the program does break through, it can be “oh-so-sweet” and that certainly seems to be the case for the Daemen College women’s soccer team. Added as a varsity sport in 2000, the Wildcats had labored through much of their existence, searching for the right coach and the right combination of players to step forward and establish the program as a regional contender. 2011 would prove to be that breakout season for Daemen. Third-year head coach Dan Dolan took a weathered, experienced squad which was coming off the program’s second 10-win season in 2010 and turned that into a 15–4 campaign in 2011, including an 11–1 mark in conference play. The season culminated in the team’s first-ever American Mideast Conference Regular Season Championship.
The magical journey started with an 8–2 pasting of SUNY Canton to kick off the season on August 27 and the Wildcats followed that up with a 6–3 record in the month of September. What ensued from that point was nothing short of spectacular as the Wildcats rattled off eight consecutive wins in October in, arguably, the best month in the history of the program. The stretch got started with a key 1–0 road win at Roberts Wesleyan on October 5 and two double-overtime thrillers, both 4–3 finals before raucous home crowds (vs. Point Park on October 8 & again vs. Roberts Wesleyan on October 25). This was followed by an impressive 1–0 dispatching of conference-leading and nationally-ranked Houghton on October 15. When the Wildcats hammered the visiting Fisher Falcons 9–0 on the final day of the regular season, they had walked away with their first championship of any kind.
“It was a great way for our seniors to go out,” Dolan said at the time, referring to his senior class of midfielders Lindsay Miller and Alicia Vasiloff; strikers Jenelle Masi and Jessica Brand; and defender Kelsi Maciejewski. “They were a big reason why we went undefeated at home all year long and this particular class has been the catalyst for the rise of our program.”
Although their season would end in heartbreaking fashion (a 2–1 loss to Roberts Wesleyan in the AMC Tournament Semifinals), the Wildcats’ 2011 season cannot be looked at as a failure in any light. Dolan was named the conference’s Coach of the Year, only starting the long list of post-season honors for his team. Miller was voted as Player of the Year in the conference, while also earning Honorable Mention All-American recognition. Joining Miller was sophomore Samantha Engel, who scored six game-winning goals on the season including the two double-overtime tallies vs. Point Park & Roberts Wesleyan, earning 1st Team All-AMC and Honorable Mention All-American status in the process. Masi, sophomore Rachel Banasik and freshman Hannah Fraser were named 2nd Team All-AMC performers while junior striker Kelsey O’Leary was an Honorable Mention All-AMC selection as well.
Even though the program loses five key members to graduation, their contributions to the emergence of Daemen Soccer will not soon be forgotten. Additionally this past year, the team had four different players chosen as AMC Offensive Player of the Week (including three underclassmen) and four different players chosen as AMC Defensive Player of the Week (including three underclassmen), proving that with a nucleus of Engel, O’Leary, Banasik, Fraser and goalkeeper Kayla Hampton as returning players, things are looking good for the future of Daemen Women’s Soccer.
Fall 2011 Sports Recap
|Team||Overall Record||Pct.||ConferenceRecord||Pct.||Season Highlights|
|Women’s Soccer||15–4||.789||11–1||.917||AMC Regular Season Champions (1st time ever); Established new record for wins in a season; Head Coach Dan Dolan named AMC Coach of the Year; Senior Lindsay Miller named AMC Player of the Year|
|Women’sVolleyball||26–15||.634||6–4||.600||Had program’s most successful season since 2004; advanced to the AMC Tournament Championship Game; Ye Wang Named AMC Freshman of the Year|
|Men’sSoccer||4–12||.250||2–8||.200||Completed 1st season under new Head Coach Mark Spacone; Qualified for AMC Tournament; Sophomore Kyle Clifford selected to 1st Team All-AMC|
|Men’sCross-Country||N/A||N/A||AMC Champions; Head Coach Jeff Gruendike named AMC Coach of the Year; Senior Brett Smith sets new school record for 8K distance|
|Women’sCross-Country||N/A||N/A||Finished 3rd in AMC|
|Men’sGolf||N/A||N/A||Winners of two fall tournaments: Pitt-Bradford Invitational & Thruway Classic hosted by Roberts Wesleyan|