STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – It’s a new era for Wagner College women’s soccer as first-year head coach Phil Casella makes his collegiate head coaching debut when the Seahawks host Liberty University at Hameline Field Friday at 4 p.m. start.
Casella is looking to replicate the success he enjoyed as an assistant coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University where, in 2002, he helped lead the Knights to a 7-2-1 Northeast Conference record in his first season, culminating in a conference regular season championship and a tournament semifinal berth.
The following season, Casella played an integral role in guiding the Knights to an NEC regular season title on the strength of an undefeated 6-0-3 conference mark as FDU went on to claim the 2003 ECAC Championship.
The 2017 Seahawks will be led by three seniors in goalkeeper Kaitlin Flaherty and defenders Jessica Donnelly and Amanda Buck (Bay Shore, NY / Islip). Returning goal-scorers for the Green and White include sophomore Maria Nunez and junior Sandra Battista.
Last season, Battista delivered the game-winning goal in Wagner’s Senior Day victory over Mount St. Mary’s Oct. 23, breaking free on the left wing with under four minutes to play and squeezing the ball into the far right corner from a tight angle.
In this season’s opener, the Green and White will face the defending Big South champion Liberty, which has won it league in consecutive seasons and were picked to finish atop the standings in the preseason poll again. A player to watch for Liberty will be forward Jennifer Knoebel, voted the Big South preseason attacking player of the year.
After the home opener, the Seahawks hit the road for four of the next five matchups, beginning with consecutive contests at MEAC members Delaware State Aug. 20 and at Rider Aug. 23. Following a home game against IUPUI Sept. 3, Wagner travels to two consecutive MAAC opponents, starting with Saint Peter’s Sept. 6, where the Green & White will try to repeat last year’s performance, a 5-0 victory, before meeting Iona Sept. 10.
This year’s NEC schedule starts off with a home game against LIU Brooklyn Oct. 1 at 1 p.m., a matchup the Seahawks won in a 5-3 shootout last season.
In the NEC preseason poll, defending league champion Saint Francis University claimed the top spot as the preseason favorite ahead of Central Connecticut and Fairleigh Dickinson University
The Red Flash received seven first place votes, with CCSU and Fairleigh Dickinson garnering one vote apiece. Sacred Heart and Bryant were predicted to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, while Robert Morris, Wagner, LIU Brooklyn, and Mount St. Mary’s rounded out the list.