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Women's Soccer Team Has Right Attitude
And Right Moves In Winning Season


West Windsor, N.J. – This season, the women’s soccer team was all about attitude – positive attitude.  According to second year head coach Michelle Ogborn-Haywood, “staying positive, working together, and never giving up” was what made the difference at many key points in the season.

“I’m thrilled with this season and this group of women,” Ogborn-Haywood said.  “They got with the system very quickly.” The Vikings ended the season with a 12-5-1 record and had exciting finishes in both the semifinal and final games of the regional tournament.

What hurt early on – quite literally – were injuries.  Four starters sustained injuries that kept them out for several weeks. Typically those kinds of setbacks bring down the rest of team, so the coaching staff made some adjustments, most importantly moving sophomore Camille Little to defense. “She was a natural. You would have thought she had played there her whole life,” Ogborn-Haywood said.  Also solid on defense were Chelsea Arnold, Alyssa Donahue and goalkeeper Jackie Laurenti.

When the injured returned to the lineup, they came back with a vengeance, according to Ogborn-Haywood.  Entering the post-season as the no. 3 seed, the Vikings played Harcum College, a team they had lost to 3-1 early in the season. This time, they won 3-2 in overtime.

“Our starters were all back, but we still had only one sub against Harcum’s roster of 23.  We just kept building on our momentum,” Ogborn-Haywood observed.  Tied after 90 minutes on two goals by Taylor Wright, forward Rachel Martinez put in the game winner in the first overtime.  “It was her third breakaway, and each time I would bring her out to rest and tell her to change just one little thing,” Ogborn-Haywood said.  The third time was the charm and the Vikings advanced to the final.

Facing Burlington County College for the Region 19 title, the Vikings exhibited their resilience, strength, skill and teamwork.  Again, the Vikings were facing an opponent they had lost to earlier in the season, a 3-0 defeat on Sept. 20. This time they battled through 90 scoreless minutes and an additional 30 minutes of overtime, forcing the game into penalty kicks.  Both teams made three out of five goals, and then, on the sixth, the Viking missed and the Barons didn’t.  And with that, the season ended.

While there were plenty of tears to go around, Ogborn-Haywood is elated as she concludes her second year.  “The coaching staff was serious and these players were serious from the first practice.  They were prompt to practices, and showed the intensity and togetherness you need to win.  I provided the direction and they were on board.” Serving as captains were Donahue, Laurenti and midfielder Chelsea Pitonyak.

The 2012 women's soccer team
Plenty of reasons to celebrate this season! Pictured, from left, are Taylor Wright, Alyssa Donahue (#12) and Katelyn Becker.
Sophomore Camille Little proved a natural defender.

According to Ogborn-Haywood, the team’s biggest strength was its togetherness. “That even went beyond their talent and stamina,” she said.  “I would tell them, ‘In this sport, it goes from your head to your heart and then to the rest of your body.’  These girls were all heart, plus physical strength, speed, and the desire to learn.  With all that, the wins come.”

One of the harbingers of good things to come was a breakthrough game against CCBC (Essex, MD) on Sept. 22, when CCBC arrived at the Mercer stadium with 20 players to the Mercer's' 10. Still, The Vikings won 1-0.

“That was a real turning point for their spirit and attitude,” Ogborn-Haywood recalled. “They realized if we can do this, we can do anything.”

The Vikings followed that win with five shut-outs, including a 9-0 romp over Morris CC and a 5-0 win over Lackawanna. The only additional loss after Sept. 22 came in a 1-0 defeat at Montgomery-Rockville (MD), when the ball deflected off an MCCC player into the goal. The women concluded the regular season with another shutout, a 3-0 victory over Cecil (MD).

While the Vikings didn’t come home with the title, they came as close as a team can come, and Ogborn-Haywood has no regrets. “I hope the girls don’t either,” she said.

Martinez, even with three weeks on the sidelines due to injury, had 60 shots on goal and led the team with 11 goals.  Donahue, a defender, tied Martinez’s 60 shots and had seven goals, plus a penalty kick in the post-season. Ogborn-Haywood notes that Donahue’s speed and skill allowed her to go up and score and then get back to her position on defense; she is expected to transfer to Kutztown University next year.  Chelsea Pitonyak, who had 42 shots on goal and scored four goals and a penalty kick, plans to transfer to Rowan to play soccer.

All-Region 19 Division I First Team selections included Alyssa Donahue and Rachel Martinez.  Donahue, Martinez, Pitonyak, Camille Little, Lauren Donoher, Jackie Laurenti were selected to the All Garden State Athletic Conference Division I Team.

As far as coaching goes, “Oggie,” as she is affectionately known, loves it.  An alumna who played soccer for Mercer in the 1990s, she says, “I was here. I know how important it is to be part of something.  I have a strong desire to help these girls and lead them down the right path. The path they start at Mercer is the start of the rest of their lives.”

Ten freshmen are expected to return next year.  Ogborn-Haywood was assisted by Mike DeAngelis and Tom DeStefano.

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