What could have been an awkward transitionary year for Holy Family turned out to be an excellent season.
It had all the makings of a rebuilding year.
The Holy Family University women’s soccer team brought in 13 freshmen.
Then, the team suffered a bunch of injuries, and many of those freshmen weren’t just observing, they were learning on the job.
But the Tigers didn’t have the pieces needed for a rebuild.
They had the pieces needed for a great season.
“It gets hard with so many of the players being so young, but they really helped our team,” said senior captain Shannon Metzler, a midfielder. “I did worry, but I worked my hardest to get better and I tried to support the younger players. I played as a freshman, and I remember (Tigers coach Jill Reeves) told us that when you start playing, you’re no longer a freshman, so as soon as they got comfortable, they played with more confidence.”
Whatever they played with, it worked.
Holy Family finished the regular season with a 13–5 record, 10–2 in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
The Tigers will now play in the CACC tournament. Holy Family comes in as the three seed and its opener is against sixth-seeded Caldwell University in a game that was played after the Times went to press.
Because the Tigers had so many inexperienced players seeing key minutes, expectations could have been tempered from those outside the school, but not for the architect of the team.
“I’m not surprised at all, I’m really not,” said Reeves, who is in her sixth season as head coach. “We lost a few key players, but we brought in 13 great freshmen. The experienced players helped bring them along and showed them the ropes. There were times when we were playing six freshmen starters, and they held their own and got better playing together. They’re not freshmen anymore.”
The freshmen class did its part, but those women had the perfect leaders to follow.
“This senior class is great,” Reeves said. “We’ve had good seasons, but the last three years, we lost in the tournament and that left a bad taste in their mouths, so they want another chance this year.”
Not only do the Tigers have a strong senior class and a dynamic group of freshmen, they have one of the top players in the conference.
Bri Rock was last year’s CACC player of the year and she might be even better this year.
With an assist in Holy Family’s regular season finale, Rock tied the Tigers’ NCAA-era single-season record for points with 39. With a point in the postseason, she’ll surpass Michelle Jones, who also had 39 points in 2003.
Rock has 15 goals and nine assists on the season, and nobody in the conference has scored more points. She’s quick to share the credit with her teammates.
“A lot of it is the hard work of our team, and the support they’ve given,” Rock said of her success. “Everyone, the upperclassmen and the freshmen, worked really hard since the start of the season and in workouts. It’s helping.”
Last year, Rock really came into her own, but this year she came into the season with a target on her back. Despite the extra attention she’s received, she’s still putting up monster numbers.
“She’s keeping a level head and staying composed, and she’s not letting players who aren’t as talented get in her head,” Reeves said. “She hasn’t taken a step back, even though players are coming at her.”
Rock was happy to pick up the player of the year hardware last year, but this year that’s not her top priority.
“We want the CACC,” Rock said. “Player of the year was a very nice honor and it would be cool, but we’re playing for the championship. That’s what we’re doing here.”
A championship would also be the perfect way for Metzler to end her season.
Meltzer, who has six goals and two assists on the year, has been a leader on the team since she joined the squad as a freshman, but when the postseason ends, so will her college career.
“Our goal, 100 percent, is to win the CACC championship,” said Metzler, who is majoring in sports marketing. “We’ve never won a championship, and I really want to win one with this group of girls. We need to play composed and play with a lot of heart. I think we can do it.” ••