Women's Soccer Powers Through

With a 4-0 win over College of the Canyons this past Friday and a 2-2 tie against Los Angeles Pierce College, the Santa Monica College Lady Corsairs women's soccer team has been quietly rolling along to a 6-1-4 record, equaling their win total from their previous season in half as many games.

"It starts with just knowing what they went through last year, knowing how it felt, and just coming in here with the right frame of mind and mentality," said Aaron Benditson, head coach of the Lady Corsair team.

This mindset has carried the Lady Corsairs to not only fourth in the Western State Conference standings, but also to the ranking of the 13th best community college soccer team in the state of California.

The flip-flop transformation from last season can be attributed to a stellar defense, but Benditson believes chemistry is the element that keeps them going.

"The character of this team is something really special. I think our preseason was really important in getting players committed early, getting a chance to know each other, and to form friendships on and off the field," said Benditson.

Against the College of the Canyons Lady Cougars (3-10-0) last Friday, the Lady Corsairs exhibited some of the chemistry Coach Benditson had referred to, as four different players scored goals in a 4-0 shutout, with midfielder Daniella DaCosta, forward Lauren Klibingat, defender Natalie Martinez, and midfielder Xochitl Salgado all contributing goals. Midfield/ forward Jessica Rangel added an assist as well.

More surprising, however, than the number of offensive options the Lady Corsairs had at their disposal this game may have been the fact that goalie Sarah McElroy only needed one save to record the shutout in 90 minutes of play, showing the discipline of a Lady Corsair team that last year gave up both 1-8 and 0-7 performances.

"What we always emphasize and what we try to establish every game is our defending. We always want to have a presence on the defensive side of the ball, in all types of defensive categories. If we're not conceding goals and we're working hard defensively, that's where our successes come from," said Benditson.

Coupled with an improved defense, goalie Sarah McElroy statistically stands as one of the top goalies in California community colleges, allowing a little over one goal per game. In a more shooter-friendly game last Tuesday against the Los Angeles Pierce College Lady Brahmas (9-2-3), McElroy was forced to make eight saves, allowing two goals in a 2-2 tie.

"She's embracing her role. We always preach to her, "You never know when that one really big save is gonna come, that you're gonna need to make that keeps our team in the game. It could come in the first minute; it could come in the 85th minute,'" said Benditson.

For Benditson and the Lady Corsairs, at the midpoint of the season, the team appears on track for at least a double digit figure in the win column, but the primary goal of the team is to win the Western State Conference Title, an achievement never before accomplished by a Lady Corsair team.

Of course, with the ball rolling smoothly and with the Lady Corsairs' sole loss a 1-0 loss to Bakersfield (8-3- 1), the opportunity for redemption will be fast at hand, as the Lady Corsairs travel to Bakersfield on Oct. 24 to split the division series.

However, at the end of the day, the goal is simply enjoying the game of soccer, says Benditson:

"That's something that's always really important to myself and our staff that they are enjoying it as well, that they don't feel pressure."