On a mission: WestConn women's soccer team determined to get back on top

DANBURY -- For some college soccer programs, winning 10 games in one season is perfectly acceptable.

The Western Connecticut State University women's team, however, is not one of those programs. Having played in the NCAA tournament four straight years -- and having advanced to the Final Four two years ago -- the Colonials have set the bar pretty high for themselves. Needless to say, last year's 10-10-1 record didn't exactly sit too well with the players and coaches -- and it still doesn't. Now that they're back on the field preparing for the upcoming season, the Colonials are a team on a mission.

"Coming into this season, I think we've prepared more than ever, especially because of the outcome last year not being up to our standard," WestConn senior co-captain Jen Duran said prior to Tuesday evening's practice. "We want to come back even harder this year."

If the Colonials do think back to last year at all, it is only to remind themselves of the disappointment they felt.

"It's exciting to get back and maybe get that taste out of our mouths that we had last year," said WestConn coach Joe Mingachos, who has guided WestConn into the NCAA tournament eight times since taking over the program in 1997.

"After last year, I take absolutely nothing for granted," Mingachos added. "We were probably saying the same thing at the beginning of last year, looking forward to a great season, and for some reason or another, things just didn't work out. We don't want it to happen two times in a row."

Among the players to watch this season for the Colonials is graduate student Nicole Sieber, a former Immaculate High star who started all 21 games for WestConn last year and was fourth on the team in scoring with seven points.

"She didn't have to come back, but she felt that she had some unfinished business to take care of," Mingachos said.

Former Masuk High standout Lauren Matthews is back for her senior season at forward; the co-captain and second-team All-Little East Conference selection is the top returning scorer from last year with nine points.

"The thing that maybe was lacking a little bit last year that we definitely have this year is team chemistry right from the start, Duran said. "It's not something we need to build up on."

The Colonials open the season this weekend at the Farmingdale Tournament in Farmingdale, N.Y. They return home to face WPI on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.