It’s business as usual for the Monroe College Mustangs. The reigning NJCAA Division I Women’s Soccer National Champion opened the season 4–0 and sits atop NJCAA rankings. Although Monroe is a four-year institution, the athletic programs play against two-year schools, so every year there’s a new look to the team.
“Because it’s juco and every two years you get a new team, there’s always at minimum 50 percent hungry people coming in. That reignites the energy and that’s a really good thing,” said head coach Marcus DiBernardo, who is in his second season overseeing both the men’s and women’s programs.
The returning players are excited, having arrived on campus in early August for training. Matches began on Aug. 24. “Top players are always motivated,” said DiBernardo. “I want to win. The players want to win. We don’t really talk about winning championships every day. We focus on the two hours that’s in front of us every day.”
In order to be in optimal shape for practice and games, players must take care of themselves by eating right and getting enough rest. “You don’t just show up for those two hours on the field and be magnificent if the other 22 hours aren’t correct,” said DiBernardo.
Despite the wins, there is still work to be done. Some of the returning players see their roles expanding this season. DiBernardo said they’ve really stepped up. It’s necessary because it’s a relatively small roster. Players are still being added, which will strengthen the squad.
“We have to adjust the way we play to conserve energy,” said DiBernardo. “College soccer is unlimited substitutions. When [an opposing] team has 24 good players and they’re subbing seven girls at a time and they’re getting plenty of rest, now we have to be really smart about the way we play the game…You have to pace yourself.”
Among the new players, freshman forwards Sydoney Clarke and Luana Grabias have performed extremely well right from the start. Sophomore center Mayara Queiros Reis is the team’s captain this year. DiBernardo said she keeps the team together.
The men’s team is also an undefeated 4–0 and number one in the NJCAA rankings. DiBernardo said the team is deep with talent, including two fantastic goal keepers. While winning is a priority, he is also intent to showcase all the players so they are seen by four-year schools.