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Growth Spurt


Cabrini’s Diana VanSickle

When a team starts a season 0-5 and has a gruesome 19-3 goal differential, it’s hard to imagine that squad poised for a run to the top of the league standings—unless you’re Cabrini women’s soccer. “We kind of expected it,” coach Ken Prothero says of the slow start. “We graduated seven starters and had two others leave. We had two returning starters and something like 17 new players.”

The Cavaliers spent the first two-and-a-half weeks of the season looking as if members of the swimming team were masquerading as the soccer squad. Come to think of it, given all the kicking those folks do, they might have done a better job. An 8-0 loss in the 95-degree swelter at Catholic University was the nadir. “If it hadn’t been so hot, we might have only lost 7-0,” Prothero says, laughing.

A non-league win over Delaware Valley ended the slide. After that came the deluge. Cabrini’s 3-0 win over Centenary on Saturday was its ninth in 10 games, with the only blemish a 0-0 tie with Marywood. The Cavs sit atop the Colonial States Athletic Conference table with an 8-0-1 record, and with games remaining against Cedar Crest (Tuesday) and Gwynedd-Mercy (Thursday), neither of which is tearing it up (although Gwynedd is tough on defense), Cabrini should grab the top seed in the CSAC tourney.

It’s a remarkable turnaround, although a team that has won the last five CSAC tourney titles in a row (and six of seven) can’t ever be considered on the outskirts of contention, even if every one of its players is a newcomer. “The thing we’ve always done well is have a team that’s close on the field and close off the field,” says Prothero, who teaches at Valley Forge Middle School when he isn’t directing the Cavaliers. “In 2009 and ’10, we were one of the most dominant teams in the league, and one of the reasons is that we got along so well.”

A big reason for Cavaliers’ success is goalie Gabby LeGendre, a junior who has posted five shutouts and has a meager 1.08 goals-against average. Senior Taylor Tralie leads the team with seven goals, all in league play, and has adjusted well from a pre-season move to attack after spending last year as a midfielder.

Life is good, but Prothero is looking for more. In the 0-0 tie with Marywood, Cabrini outshot the Pacers 10-5 in the first half but couldn’t finish. Had the Cavs finished more efficiently against Centenary, Prothero thinks they could’ve had a 4-0 halftime cushion.

The goal now is to win another CSAC tournament, which starts Oct. 31, and gain a berth in the NCAA tourney. Despite their six post-season appearances, the Cavaliers have never won a game there. “Until we can dominate in the pre-season, we’re not going to get a good seed,” says Prothero.

This year’s slow start might prevent the selection committee from considering Cabrini worthy of high status, but there’s no denying the team has showed tremendous resiliency and character in its charge to the top of the CSAC. “We get a lot of diamonds in the rough—girls who played two sports in high school,” Prothero says. “We didn’t expect to start 0-5, but we also didn’t expect to win all these games afterward, either.”    

In a season of unexpected outcomes, perhaps the Cavaliers have some more surprises ahead—in the NCAA tournament.

EL HOMBRE SEZ: The Eagles’ improbable win over Minnesota featured a tremendous defensive effort, something many didn’t feel was possible after the way the unit played the past two weeks. But with the opportunity to smack around Sam Bradford and facing an offensive line with a tackle situation that makes Big V look like a Pro Bowler, the Birds stepped forward. It was a dominating effort, reminiscent of the smackdown the D laid on Pittsburgh in Week Three. It’s hard to get a handle on this team, but its 4-2 record is good for second in the NFC East. Buckle up, everybody—things aren’t going to be any less crazy moving forward.

AND ANOTHER THING: The Chip Kelly debacle continues in San Francisco, where the 49ers have lost six straight and have surrendered 36.5 ppg during the skid. Look for Chipper to be in the running for jobs with LSU and Texas soon, and expect the NFL finally to learn its lesson that his college style isn’t made for the big leagues. 

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