Griffs hoping for hot start to MAAC play

By: Robert Janish

Sports Contributor

Despite having a 2-5-2 overall record in non-conference play in 2015, Coach Clark and his team enter this weekend confident in their ability to begin their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule on the right foot.

Starting it off on the road against both the Manhattan Jaspers and Monmouth Hawks, the Griffs will surely have their work cut out for them starting their conference play in 2015 away from their home crowd.

Even though they hold victories over both the Jaspers and Hawks from last season, this is a brand new year and it is important to not dwell on the past too much, especially since they’re playing both games on the road.

“The intensity really has been picked up going into MAAC play,” sophomore forward Taylor Kugler said. With in-game situations already being played out in practice, Kugler adds that the team can’t afford to make the same type of mistakes they were able to make against non-conference opponents.

Senior goalkeeper Kailee De Franks says their non-conference games have been more practice for the rest of the schedule. “They have been our building blocks to trying to get better and trying to prepare for MAAC play.” She says these games also help in correcting any mistakes the team makes and shows what the team needs to improve on both offensively and defensively.

Junior defensemen Alexis Kroese says it’s been mainly about effort and hard work this week in practice, especially due to some recent shortcomings the team has had. “We have to be able to push through the last few minutes of the game and try and pull out that win.”

With a recent role change, Kugler has been moving into the midfield more frequently and playing as more of a forward. As a result, she believes there is much more communication, and also a growing chemistry with her teammates.

De Franks is a true starter this year and she has earned that playing time, but she realizes that being a starter also comes with higher expectations. “there’s no second chances anymore, and this is when you have to prove yourself to your teammates.”

Kroese, however, like a few of her fellow teammates, tore her ACL recently, but has still been able to motivate her teammates, whether in practice or during a game. “Four of us tore our ACLs, so we have been the motivators, more spiritually and been talking more to the girls and  pushing them in ways that we can’t do on the field.”

Throughout the year thus far, De Franks has mainly been working on “not trying to take any steps off, working as hard as I can in every practice and also mentally focusing before every practice and every game, and after the practice and after the game as well.”

Going into MAACs, she believes it’s “more of a mental challenge and to also be on and not take a single play off, along with continuing to improve and work hard and to not make the same mistakes made in non-conference play.”

“We just say bring it on!,” said De Franks when addressing their conference foes Manhattan and Monmouth. With a history of being successful against both teams, she’s aware that the success can continue, and “we just work on the little aspects and we hope that works out for us for the game.”

Kugler knows the importance of setting the tone early for their team in MAAC play. While not underestimating their opponents, “getting two road wins would really be the best possible outcome.”

“Personally, I think these two games will define us, not only as a team, but also to other people,” Kugler said, addressing the importance of these games.

Kroese says these upcoming MAAC games are pretty huge. “Especially going into MAACs, it would definitely show teams that we mean business and we’re not going to take it easy and we’ll be gunning out for everybody.”

“Last year, we had some games that we should have won, but lost, and some games we should have lost, we actually won.” She further adds that they need to start off strong in MAAC play to earn a good seed in the tournament.

“We definitely don’t want any letdowns, so coming out and showing them that we definitely deserve to win and also be able to show them that we are a good team and we can beat those teams,” Kroese said.

Kroese believes winning the two games this weekend “would be pretty huge because Monmouth is definitely the top gun in the conference, so that win would be huge.” She adds that Manhattan has been doing well recently, so “being able to knock them off their streak would be pretty good.”

De Franks says if the team is able to win one or both games this weekend, “it’s really going to boost our confidence, so being able to get one or hopefully two wins in our pocket, it’s going to be able to help us take on teams and learn things about other teams that we can achieve as well.”

Kugler echoed her fellow teammates’ sentiment, saying that it all starts from winning these games “and being able to get two wins in our pocket.”

De Franks believes once they can get these two wins, “We’re going to be able to go the rest of the season 10-0.”

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