Rowan Women's Soccer huddles together before the second half of Sunday's game against Farmington State. Sunday, September 4, 2022. - Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

Strike early.

That was the mindset of the Rowan women’s soccer team throughout their first two contests this season. In both games over the weekend, Head Coach Scott Leacott’s squad jumped ahead with a first-half goal. 

On Sunday, September 4, in the 27th minute of play, it was the leg of sophomore Jillian Jankowski that lifted Rowan to a 1-0 victory over Farmingdale State College. 

Jankowski sprinted down the sideline and collected the ball following a save by the Farmingdale State Keeper, and booted it into the back of the net. Freshman Ava Morales earned her first collegiate assist on the scoring play.

“I saw a lot of gaps in the back and realized we were a lot faster than the defense,” Jankowski said. “That made it easy to get to those open holes.”

It was a textbook hustle play fueled by dedication and effort. Jankowski says that has been the focus of the team throughout the preseason and something Coach Leacott has preached.

“Communication, passing and moving, and working hard,” Jankowski said. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” 

The 2022 team is a much younger incarnation of the Profs, with more freshmen and sophomores stepping into starting roles. 

Lianna SanFelice, a freshman and South Jersey native, earned her first NCAA start on Sunday. 

“I was a little nervous, but it felt good,” SanFelice said. “Whatever is best for the team is what I am going to do. I want to prove I belong.”

While still a rookie, SanFelice understands what it takes to win at the collegiate level. 

“Keeping a positive atmosphere and having each other’s backs is big,” SanFelice said. “Sometimes we do get frustrated, but once we get up the energy we’ll be good.”

In only two games thus far, Coach Leacott has demonstrated his ability to blissfully mix veteran leaders with eager underclassmen.

Besides SanFelice, who goes by “Li,” other freshmen such as Julianna Giordano, Olivia Giordano and Ava Morales have also seen the starting lineup as well. These rookies enter a locker room guided by experienced seniors like captain Natalie Pantalone.

Pantalone, a Drexel transfer, is committed to improving both herself and her teammates. 

“I’m just always trying to be a presence on the field, and bring the younger girls up to the pace of college soccer,” Pantalone said. 

As a captain, she knows the value of team chemistry, especially for a team hoping to succeed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoffs later this year.

“We’re doing a ton of team bonding,” Pantalone said. “We are really working on being together as a team…on our chemistry.”

This sentiment was echoed by Sunday’s goal scorer, Jillian Jankowski. 

“I think the growing chemistry helps on the field,” Jankowski said. “The girls are starting to know each other better, and I’m excited, I think it will translate well.” 

The Profs have 14 more games to go this season, but if the improvement in play from Friday to Sunday is any indication, this young team is full of potential and energy.

Rowan women’s soccer is back on the pitch Wednesday, September 7, at 5:30 p.m. to take on Manhattanville College prior to a quartet of road games.

The team surrounds Sophomore Jillian Jankowski after she scored the first and only goal of the game on Sunday. From left to right, Lianna SanFelice, Simone Pacetti, Jillian Jankowski, Nina Carlson, Ava Morales. September 4, 2022. – Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

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