Bison women’s soccer seek another NCAA tournament bid

Nick Sperduto, Contributing Writer

After losing five players to graduation, the Bison women’s soccer team is returning plenty of depth to help carry the team through this season. It seems as though the Orange and Blue have the aspiration, excitement and talent to compete for the Patriot League title and make a bid for the NCAA tournament for the third time in six seasons.

Among those returning is Bri Kropinack ’21, last season’s team co-captain, who was one of three Bison to start all 18 games. She will look to head the attack along with Jenna Marek’ 21, Third Team All Patriot-League honors in 2018, and Abby Gearhart ’23. In addition, the Bison will receive a boost with the return of Claire Mensi ’22, whose 2019 season was cut short due to injury. Mensi, who will serve as the Bison’s co-captain, nearly earned the Patriot League Rookie of the Year honor in her first season.

“This season I’m most looking forward to just getting a chance to play,” Mensi said. “I’ve missed most of my career games due to two back-to-back knee injuries, so I’m really excited for the chance to get back out on that field again.”

Defensively, the Bison should be strong once again. The core of Chloe Christakos ’21, Holly Burns ’22 and Leanne Engemann ’23 all started in at least 16 of 18 games last season and logged significant minutes. In addition to the returning talent, this year’s freshman class features defenders Lea Tarzy and Brooke Tracey, midfielders Kenar Gelman and Hannah Stuck, attacker Mary Santelli, and goalkeeper Jenna Hall.

“I’m really excited for what our freshman class has to offer,” Mensi said. “They all can provide something unique to our team, and I think they are going to play a big role for us this season.”

Of course, this year has come with especially significant challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. For most athletes, it is the constant state of the unknown that is so difficult. One minute, you’re practicing with all your teammates and the next, all athletic activities are postponed and you’re placed in quarantine housing. With continuously changing practice schedules and uncertainty surrounding whether the season will even be played, the mental and physical effects are draining.

“There has been a lot of behind the scenes work for our team, and although it has been extremely difficult, I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together. These next few weeks are bound to have some bumps in the road, but it’s important that we stay focused on our goal of winning the Patriot League tournament. It’s a group effort right now, and it’s crucial that everyone plays their part,” M​ensi said.

This season should prove to be a unique one, but one that the Bison will be able to handle. The mix of returning veteran presence and new freshman talent should prove key for the Orange and Blue as they seek their first Patriot League title since 2017.

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