By Tim Morris
Katie Amundson is taking the same approach to Brookdale Community College’s women’s soccer season that she has the last three years.
“I don’t bring up last year,” she said. “We start from scratch. It’s a whole new team.
“This team has to make their own story.”
The story of Brookdale’s women’s soccer the last three seasons has ended with a national championship.
As the Jersey Blues embark on a bid for an unprecedented fourth straight National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III title, Amundson hasn’t let a sense of entitlement seep into the nation’s top program.
“I won’t allow it,” she said. “They always have a target on their back, and I stress to them that you have to make your own path.”
The Jersey Blues start the season in the No. 1 spot in the preseason national polls.
Thus far, Amundson likes what she’s seen from her team. There’s a hunger and willingness to do the hard work that any championship team must have.
“We’ve had a good preseason,” she said. “I’m very pleased with what we’ve been doing in practice. They’ve worked hard. You practice as you play and they know that.”
Amundson takes practice seriously, and the cost of not putting forth the effort means running.
Brookdale has nine players back form last season’s 19-1 squad that defeated Oxford College of Emory University, 1-0, in the championship finals.
There are six newcomers and much of the preseason was about acclimating the newcomers and developing team chemistry.
“We have a good mix across the board,” Amundson said.
Amundson does not think long term.
“It’s game-by-game, day-by-day,” she said.
Brookdale will remain a possession team, building the attack from the back forward. Amundson, who was last year’s Division III National Coach of the Year, believes in controlling the ball and being creative with it. The Jersey Blues have speed up front that stretches defenses and takes advantage of scoring opportunities.
What the team has been working on is finishing those scoring opportunities, which in preseason scrimmages have been plenty.
Two key returnees up front are forwards Heather Arbachesky (Wall) and Amanda Karabin (Wall).
Arbachesky was the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Player of the Year last season as a freshman when she scored 19 goals and dished 13 assists. She was named to the All-Tournament Team at the national championships.
Karabin (eight goals, seven assists) moves from midfield to the forward line, where she will complement her former high school teammate. She will be more offensive at her new position.
Midfield is essential to ball control and the Jersey Blues have veterans Bianca DiBlasio (Shore Regional), Endila Radoncic (Matawan), Melissa Monteleone (Manchester) and Gabby Florio (Colts Neck) back. Brittney Ramsey (Manasquan) has impressed in the preseason and has moved into a starting position.
Completing the midfielders are Jordan Grillo (Matawan), Kathleen Maniace (Neptune) and Brooke Corcione (Calvary Christian School).
En route to the national title, Brookdale did not allow a single goal in the NJCAA Tournament. The Jersey Blues have their superb stopper/sweeper combo of Michelle Montefinese (Monmouth Regional) and Colleen Branagan (Matawan) back to anchor the backline. Kaitlin Koterba (Neptune) is another returnee who adds experience .
Completing the back line is Amy Beringer (Ocean).
In goal, the Jersey Blues have a newcomer in freshman Kayla Breaud (Monmouth Regional), who has big shoes to fill. Graduated keeper Marti Stewart (Marlboro) led Brookdale to the last two national championships and was named the national tournament’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
Amundson remarked that Breaud has good hands and good hand-eye coordination.
To prepare her team for the postseason, Amundson has made the schedule competitive by scheduling non-region opponents.
Brookdale makes its home debut Sept. 4 at noon against Howard Community College, one of those non-region teams she was talking about.
The Jersey Blues’ first home, conference (Garden State Athletic Conference) and Region 19 match is Sept. 10 against Middlesex County College at 12 p.m.
Amundson’s coaching staff includes a newcomer, Chelsea James, who played on Brookdale’s 2013 national championship team. She joins veteran Nilufer Onder.