MCLA women's soccer opens season on Saturday

The MCLA women begin the season Saturday. Goalkeeper Meg Richardson is ready.
NORTH ADAMS — Meg Richardson landed at MCLA last fall, and promptly stepped into the starting goalkeeper's role for the women's soccer team.

Now Richardson and her MCLA teammates are excited to get the 2017 season started.

"Our intensity is up there, and we're working really hard every day to get better," said the rising sophomore from Hoosac Valley. "Everybody's pushing each other, so we're ready to go into our game on Saturday."

Coach Deb Raber's Trailblazers are picked to finish seventh in the eight-team MASCAC race. The Trailblazers open up Saturday afternoon at Shewcraft Field against Rivier.

It is one of five consecutive home games MCLA has to open the season. That includes the conference opener against Worcester State. After that, the Trailblazers will play four consecutive road games.

"We think we have school pride and pride within ourselves. We're just like any other team with new players and new potential," senior defender Sychiah Johnson said of the No. 7 spot in the poll. "We have to come in and work hard. We want to show that we'll work just as hard or harder to move up in the standings."

The Trailblazers were 3-9-3 and 1-5-1 in MASCAC last year, finishing seventh in the conference. The record was somewhat deceiving because every MASCAC game the Trailblazers played ended up as a one-goal decision. That included a 1-0 loss to Bridgewater State in the tournament quarterfinal round.

"I hate to compare years," Raber said after practice earlier in the week. "I like to take it year-by-year."

While she won't compare teams, the coach — entering her 18th year — likes what she has seen so far.

"I'm super-impressed with our first-year students," she said. "Most of them came in ready to make an impact. That, to me, is what's exciting about it."

There are nine first-year players on the MCLA roster. The list includes freshman forward Brooke Mangiardi from Taconic and freshman forward Miranda Wissman from Drury. Brooke Mangiardi joins her older sister Lauren on the squad. These three are part of a five-woman group from Berkshire County on the MCLA roster.

Rising sophomore Kaylyn Holliday, a forward from Catskill, N.Y., led MCLA with four goals scored last year. Obviously, the Trailblazers are going to need more than the nine goals scored by the offense this year.

But even if they can't turn into an offensive machine, Richardson is in goal as the last line of defense.

As a freshman, Richardson made the All-MASCAC first team. She started 15 of the 16 games she played in, had a 1.19 goals-against average and had five shutouts.

Mention Richardson to Raber, who was a goalkeeper in college, and the coach smiles.

"Your team's psyche adjusts a little bit when you can feel confident with who's holding down the goal for you," Raber said.

Richardson said it didn't take her long to feel part of the team, on and off the field.

"It didn't take me that long to adjust. I came in fit and ready to go," she said. "It was just getting used to how they played and what Coach expected from me."

And as to that No. 7 position in the preseason poll, Richardson say it's something they are looking forward to disproving.

"We're ready to go and show teams what MCLA is made of," the sophomore goalkeeper said. "We don't think we should be at No. 7.

"Every time we step out on the field, we're going out to show all the teams what we're made of."

Reach sports writer Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


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