Three women’s soccer players awarded All-CAA First Team honors

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Three women’s soccer players awarded All-CAA First Team honors

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By Mike Puzzanghera, news staff

After a fantastic conference season, members of Northeastern’s women’s soccer team (10-9-1, 7-2-0 CAA) earned all-CAA recognition.

When the Colonial Athletic Association, or CAA, announced its end of season awards, three Huskies were named to the All-CAA First Team: fourth-year midfielder Valentina Soares Gache, fourth-year goalkeeper Nathalie Nidetch and second-year defender Julianne Ross.

Soares Gache finished the year with one goal and three assists from holding midfield. Her single goal came as an overtime winner against rival Boston University (11-7-3).

Nidetch kept seven shutouts in goal, saving 71 total shots across 19 games and only allowing 0.9 goals per game against her.

Ross helped the team hold six clean sheets in the games she played, appearing in 1,645 minutes along the way. She also added a goal in the team’s opening day win over Connecticut (4-14-0).

For Soares Gache, it was her second CAA award, following her All-CAA Third Team selection last season.

“I was honestly surprised,” Soares Gache said. “I feel like I’m the kind of player that does a lot of the behind the scenes work, the nitty gritty stuff. So getting recognized, especially in my last year, was an honor.”

Nidetch is also a returning awardee, having been named to the Second Team in 2016 and the Third Team in 2017.

“I’ve kind of tried to keep an attitude since I’ve gotten here that it doesn’t really matter. My whole thing was if we aren’t making the tournament and we’re not doing well, meaning winning a conference championship, then that stuff really doesn’t mean anything,” Nidetch said. “I’ve gotten some awards the past couple years too. I’ve never gotten First Team, so it really did mean a lot that the other coaches thought I deserved it.”

Ross is the team’s only returning First Team member, having earned the selection in her first season as a Husky in 2017.

“It was an honor since a lot of the other players in the conference and [on] our team are very talented,” Ross said.

Despite the Huskies’ rough start to the season in non-conference play, the team was able to turn it around in-conference, winning their first six matches in the CAA and finishing with a 7-2-0 conference record.

Soares Gache felt her performance this year was her best as a Husky.

“I really feel like I came into my own as a player, specifically in my position. Throughout my career I’ve played in a number of different positions, just due to what the team needed at the time,” Soares Gache said. “Just getting to really focus on my natural position and play it for the duration of the entire year, it was a part of me.”

Nidetch felt she started the season off shaky but turned it around in conference play..

“The beginning of the season during non-conference games, I wasn’t performing as well as the coaches wanted me too. That was something that was difficult to go through because I had never gone through something like that before,” Nidetch said. “But as the season went on I really was able to solidify confidence in myself and I think it kind of showed on the field as well.”

Ross had a similar feeling about their rocky start. Her turnaround was due to her position change, she said.

“I think that I started off rough trying to get used to a new position, transitioning from center back to outside back. As the season went on, I switched back to center back. I definitely had more of an understanding and was able to play a better role for the team as I understood the outside role,” Ross said.

The team’s defensive performance one of its strongest points.They held six clean sheets in-conference and only conceded four goals across nine conference games.

Soares Gache said the defense’s experience playing together in the previous season was helpful for their chemistry this year.

“The five of us, the four in the back line and myself included in holding mid, are the same group that was there last year, apart from [first-year defender] Grace Moore, who came in as a freshman,” Soares Gache said. “Having that open communication on the field and off just really helped us to gel and make things flow really easily on the field. When you have that, it’s easy to pass off players, to switch when you need to, play different positions in the run of play, having that chemistry between us was what made us really successful.”

Nidetch was incredibly grateful for the defense playing in front of her.

“This is probably one of the best back lines I’ve played behind and I was really thankful for that because it showed and we were able to get a bunch of clean sheets which is always nice,” Nidetch said. “They showed up so big in some of our major games like saving balls off the line, heading the ball before it went in the net, so it was really great playing with them this season.”

The second seeded Huskies exited the tournament in the semifinals on Oct. 24, losing 1-0 to Hofstra (15-5-1, 6-2-1), the eventual CAA champions. Last season, Northeastern also lost to Hofstra, that time in the championship game by a score of 2-1.

“It was tough because this team had the most potential that I’ve seen since being here at Northeastern. For us to come up short like that, it seemed like we deserved more and we were capable of so much more,” Soares Gache said. “But the way that we played, though the result didn’t always show it, was something that I was really, really proud to be a part of.”

Since the team knew they were skilled, they were hopeful of their chances entering the tournament.

“Something that we always said, particularly within our senior class was that ‘We have so much potential that we don’t even know we have.’ We were just kind of scratching the surface,” Nidetch said. “Even though the season ended pretty quickly, I think we were still so much better than what we might have necessarily showed and that we had so much potential and obviously things didn’t go our way but I think we really would’ve surprised people if we made it to the NCAA tournament.”

Head coach Ashley Phillips was proud of the season that two-year captain Soares Gache had with the team.

“I think Val [Soares Gache] probably over-met everyone’s expectation of her except for [hers and mine],” Phillips said. “We held her to a really high standard and always kind of knew what she was capable of and I would honestly say she was the backbone of our program this year, her and Eve [fourth-year defender Eve Goulet]. I think she had a fantastic senior year and I know it didn’t end the way she wanted, but I think she would be proud of the way she performed.”

The team is losing six senior players this year. Those departing noted that they’ll miss their Husky teammates.

“I’ve gotten so close with these girls and the girls change every year because people leave and people come in but I’ve never been so close with a team before, even playing with club and growing up playing,” Nidetch said. “The girls become your best friends and you see them every single day of your life and you go through the highest of highs with them and the lowest of lows.”

Phillips said that this year’s senior class has certainly left a good impression for her.

“The biggest thing about them is that they’re really good kids and really good people and they made coaching extremely fun. They had good personalities, they were really coachable, they were easy to relate to. They just make you want to go to work even if you come off a bad game and I think I’ll miss that a lot,” Phillips said. “Obviously we’ll miss them as soccer players, but sometimes the impact that people have as just their normal personalities, sometimes you’ll miss that a bit more.”

Ross is staying with the team and has defined her plans as they get ready for next year.

“Still keeping at it, still working out, still getting touches on the ball. Playing with the team coming in next year,” Ross said. “I think that practicing in the offseason with our teammates and getting even more of that connection between us will help us prepare for next season.”