By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Nothing like jumping into the fire for your two games ever.

It’s difficult enough for the Rochester Lady Lancers that they will meet one of the United Women’s Soccer finalists in their debut game against New Jersey Copa FC in Holmdel, N.J. Saturday night.

Less than 24 hours later, they visit the New England Mutiny in Western Massachusetts Sunday at 3 p.m. The Mutiny finished second in the UWS East.

Yet, that’s just fine for head coach Loren Inglese, who welcomes the back-to-back challenges.

“This weekend’s trip is going to be big for us in that New Jersey who we play was last year’s national runner-up,” he said. “In that sense, starting off with one of the better teams really gives you an idea, ‘Ok if we can get an idea of what the best has, and we prepare for that and you have a starting point.’ We want to start with the best that we prepare for that and hope we can replicate that ourselves.”

Translated: the learning curve will be great and then some for the Lady Lancers, who were formed only 35 days ago on April 8. A lot of things were brought together in a short period of time.

“We’ll find out more individually about the players we have,” Inglese said by telephone from Rochester Thursday. “When you put them up against high-level competition, high-level players, all rise to meet the challenge and that’s what we’re expecting of players to do this weekend. They’re excited. They had a good week of training. They’re excited about getting down there and play and we’re excited to see them play.”

Since then Inglese, who is also team general manager, and associate head coach Sal Galvano, have held two tryouts and put together a 24-woman roster. The team is composed for former high school standouts from the Rochester area who are currently in college and others from out of state who saw it as an opportunity to play their favorite sport regularly and perhaps.

The difficult part was putting together a roster is making sure you find the right player who fits into a system. You want players to be versatile as well.

“We spent a lot of time looking for a particular kind of player,” Inglese said. “I have a very specific system I play with the team. So, for us, the strength for us going forward, we’ll be good in possession. The rules in this league are a bit different in what the players are used to. In the college teams that they come from, you can sub freely. But if you come out in the first half, you can’t go back in but you are free to go back in in the second.

“This league runs more of a pro/European league style system — you have seven [subs], when you’re off you’re done. You’ve got to be able to maintain your fitness for 90 minutes. So largely the system is based on possession, where we can sustain that play for 90 minutes. That’s what I look for us to do. That’s the kind of player that we’ve brought in, the ones that can hold onto the ball and can [take apart] defenses that way just by maintaining possession.”

Two key players will be the team’s first two signings — goalkeeper Catie Broderick, a Spencerport High School graduate who starred for Inglese and Galvano (the head coach] at Monroe Community College, and forward Alexa Antetomaso, who attended the University of Georgia after a standout career at Webster Schroeder H.S.

“She’s a phenomenal talent,” Inglese said of Broderick, an All-American at MCC who will attend University of North Carolina-Wilmington. “She chose Wilmington because they play the likes of Virginia, UNC, some really top level competition. She is, in my opinion, one of better keepers I’ve ever had a chance to work with. So, we’re excited to see her out there with the team in both games this week.”

An All-Greater Rochester selection in 2012, Antetomaso won’t be available for this weekend’s games due to previous commitments.

“Having her is also going to be key for us when we get her back from her remaining engagements that she has to be at,” Inglese said. “We’re excited about her coming here. Obviously, her not being available this weekend is not ideal, but you deal with your roster things and it’s no different than injuries or having players who are unfit. When she comes, it will be a big boost for us.”

Several other players will be missing as well.

“It’s difficult at the moment,” Inglese said. “Some of them are still finishing up some college requirements with graduation and the finals. W have some other very big signings in the Rochester area that are unavailable to us this weekend, which is unfortunate. Every team in the league is dealing with the same things.”

Playing back-to-back matches on opening weekend is just the start of the Lady Lancers’ tasks in their inaugural season. After this weekend’s matches, they return home for their home opener at Aquinas Institute Sunday, May 21 at 1 p.m.

“Being a first-year team is really the biggest challenge for us,” Inglese said. “It’s going to be learning the league and learning about the other teams and getting the players comfortable with the level of competition and also getting myself and Sal comfortable with the competition.

“We don’t really know what other teams will have. We have no idea what the rosters are like. You don’t always know how teams approach these kinds of leagues. You don’t know how they approach these seasons or kinds of competition. What you do know that you have players that want to compete at the highest level, so for us it’s going to be getting comfortable with what other teams are bringing and what their expectations are.”