Soccer Team Makes
Major Strides to Reach Region 19 Semis
Windsor, N.J. - A 7-12-1 record might not sound like a year
of great achievement, but there is much behind those numbers
that adds up to a stellar first season for women's soccer coach
Michelle Ogborn-Haywood and her players. The Vikings had a rocky
start - 0-7-1 in their first eight games - as team members adjusted
to a new coach, suffered some major injuries, and tried to mesh
a small group of returning sophomores with many freshmen faces.
Then, the turnaround began. On Sept. 29, the Vikings trounced
Camden County College 8-0, and followed that game with another
Region 19 win, 2-1, against Lackawanna on Oct. 2. Topping Sussex
2-0 on Oct. 8, Mercer suddenly found itself 3-3 in NJCAA Region
By season's end, the Vikings had advanced all the way to the
Region 19 semifinal game, beating Morris CC 2-1 in the quarterfinal
Oct. 22 before losing 1-0 to an almost unbeaten Burlington squad
Oct. 25. Two of the team's late season losses came in overtime.
work proved key to the Vikings' success this season.
notes that the entire season was a work in progress -- for her
and the team -- as the coaching staff made changes after each
game to try to find the best fit for each player's talents.
A series of injuries among starters complicated the process,
she notes, but that did not diminish the team's will to win.
"We held meetings where players could watch film and start
to visualize what I was asking them to do, rather than just
hearing me say it day in and day out," Ogborn-Haywood said.
"In my experience as an athlete, it's easier to correct
faults by seeing the problems rather than just hearing about
them. I believe the film nights helped."
Ogborn-Haywood also continued to work with her players to create
a sense of family that she believes is essential to successful
women's teams. In addition to their time on the field, in the
weight room and in the pool, "we enjoyed team dinners hosted
by some of the parents, did a community service project, traveled
together, laughed and cried together," she says.
According to Ogborn-Haywood, the players' athletic and emotional
growth started producing wins. "Everything clicked. We
got some key players back and added a few more who were a huge
Versatility also made a big difference. "At least half
of the girls could make solid contributions anywhere on the
field, including both offense and defense. To have that option
makes a team so much stronger," she says.
Ogborn-Haywood refuses to single out any one player as the key
to the Vikings' success. "So many players contributed -
certain girls in certain games made the difference. Our strength
came from the bonds and integrity of the entire team."
Three Vikings earned All-Region 19 Honors. Irene Calabria Nuevo
and Samantha Biondi (Steinert High) were both named to the First
Team All-Region 19. Chelsea Pitonyak (Steinert High) was named
to the Second Team All-Region 19. Calabria Nuevo and Biondi
were also chosen to the Garden State Athletic Conference First
Ogborn-Haywood was assisted by Mike DeAngelis, Bobby Gioscio
and Nicole Hover.
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