Rams setting foundation under Coach Fajardo
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Women's Soccer - Fri, Aug. 25, 2017

MOUNT VERNON – Cornell women's soccer coach Jose Fajardo sees many differences from his initial team last year and the 2017 version. And that all started with preseason practices.

"Competition is completely different and has been a huge plus for us so far," Fajardo said. "I feel better about our depth, training has been more intense and I'm more comfortable with the players in the second year. The girls are more motivated and want to work. They see that they can be successful."

The season starts Sept. 1 with a 7 p.m. match at Mount Mercy. The Rams entertain Edgewood Sept. 3 in the home opener at noon.

The Rams return eight starters and 11 total letterwinners from last year's squad that played many teams tough, despite a 3-15 overall finish. Ten of the setbacks were decided by two goals or less, including a 1-0 loss to Midwest Conference champion Knox in late October.

"The matches we lost were winnable. We just lacked depth, fitness and mental toughness at the end of matches," Fajardo said. "The trend for this team will be determined by how well we work together and support each other. Can we get over the hill?"

Fajardo brought in eight first-year players, boosting the team roster size to 22. Three-year letterwinner Maddie Perna (SR/Cedar Rapids, Iowa) is the lone senior of the young group.

"We hope to build from here," Fajardo said. "We have a strong base for what we want to accomplish in a few years. We want to be the best in the conference."

Elizabeth Mombello (JR/Overland Park, Kan.), Nalani Amsden (JR/Ripon, Wis.), Clara Garcia (JR/McMinnville, Ore.) and Elisabeth Sage (JR/Denver, Iowa) join Perna as multi-year letterwinners in the program. Garcia collected 112 saves last season for a team that allowed just 2.89 goals per match.

The Rams look to replace the point production left by graduated all-MWC performer Deidre Franzen, who delivered 15 of the team's 21 goals last fall. Ashley Quesada (SO/Blaine, Wash.) is the team's top returning scorer, netting eight points in 2016.

Cornell brings back nine players who started at least 10 matches last season in Perna, juniors Mombello, Amsden, Garcia, Sage and sophomores Quesada, Darby Dowd (SO/Rathdrum, Idaho), Cali Pfleger (SO/Racine, Wis.) and Sofia Schnur (SO/Redwood City, Calif.).

"The girls have been practicing hard and are always ready to go," Fajardo said. "If we stay healthy, we will have a decent year."