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After Snub, Big Green Wants to Show It Belongs

Emma Brush

Emma Brush

Hanover — The last time the Dartmouth College women’s soccer team was in the public eye, its members were shrouded in disappointment, having just learned from an internet broadcast that they wouldn’t be playing in the 2012 NCAA tournament. The Big Green’s 6-1 Ivy League record was good for second place, but its overall body of work wasn’t good enough for inclusion in the national postseason.

Roughly 10 months later, as Dartmouth prepares to host Fordham in its home opener tonight, memories of an outstanding season and that playoff snub still linger. The Big Green was 13-4 last fall in its second campaign under Theresa Romagnolo, a surprising turnaround from a 4-12 record in 2011.

“Now, we have much higher expectations of ourselves,” said senior forward Emma Brush, an All-Ivy selection last year. “Some might say that leads to pressure, but we take it as the confidence to know what type of team we should be and can be. It drives us to higher standards and we’re looking to make the tournament this year.

“We felt we deserved it last year and we were kind of insulted. But because we didn’t get what we wanted, it put that much more fire in us.”

Romagnolo said her program, which won only 11 games combined in 2010-11, may have been excluded because its reputation as a national-caliber team had waned. The goal is to get Dartmouth back to the level exhibited from 2000-06, when the Big Green won 11 or more games five times, captured three league titles and was the Ivies’ runner-up three other times.

“We won our last seven games of the season and we have to use that to motivate us,” the coach said. “We only lost four seniors, but they were a big part of our mentality.”

Dartmouth features six seniors this fall, plus fifth-year players Brush and midfielder Kim Rose, who were each allowed to extend their college careers after missing previous campaigns because of injury. Those two will feature prominently in the starting lineup, along with senior midfielder Chrissy Lozier, an All-Ivy performer who scored eight goals last year, and sophomore defender Jackie Friedman.

Sophomore forward Corey Delaney was the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year last season, starting every game and producing two goals and five assists.

Junior goaltender Tatiana Saunders was another All-Ivy pick in 2012, playing every game. She’s been under fire so far this season, as Dartmouth started with 5-3 and 2-0 losses at Purdue and Northwestern. Part of that struggle has been the absence of injured rearguards Laura Thurber and Kristen Vondrak. A junior and a sophomore, they’re each out for the season with knee injuries. Lost to graduation was All-Ivy defender Aurelia Solomon.

“We need to make some changes to give ourselves the chance to stay in the game,” said Romagnolo, who’s been shuffling personnel and experimenting with various formations to bolster the back line. “We can’t allow easy chances on footraces for the ball. Northwestern beat us with two through balls over the top.”

Brush, who had seven goals and five assists in 2012, looks at the water bottle as half full.

“Last weekend showed we still have the same attacking ability as last year, so now it’s about working on chemistry and putting some polish on things,” she said. “We’re winning balls and putting high pressure on people in the midfield.”

Said Romagnolo: “We’re trying to find our identity on who we’re going to be this season. Last season was great, because it gave us a lot of confidence, but now we’ve got to show that by getting it done in games.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.