Nov. 3, 2010

Deanna Esposito is not backing down. Not this time.

The senior goalkeeper for the top-ranked College of Saint Rose and her teammates have their sights set on a national championship, and after finishing the regular season with a flawless record, they are one step closer to reaching their dream.

The road to a potential championship has not always been an easy one for the native of Sayville, N.Y. Out of high school, Esposito signed to play at Division I Hofstra, but then tore her ACL, which changed her collegiate plans. Instead, she headed to C.W. Post, where she played a handful of games as both a freshman and sophomore, including five starts in her second season. She posted a 5-1 record with a 0.58 goals against average as a sophomore, which included a season-opening victory over Saint Rose.

However, Esposito felt she was not reaching her full potential at C.W. Post.

I lost some love for the game, and thats not me,” said Esposito. I love soccer. I felt like needed to go somewhere that would foster my love of soccer and make me move forward and do greater things and help me achieve my goal of winning a national championship as a team.”

Esposito talked with a friend who had played at Saint Rose about her dilemma, and the friend passed her name along to the Golden Knights head coach Laurie Darling Gutheil.

Darling Gutheil remembered the goalkeepers stellar play against the Golden Knights during the previous season, and it worked out for Esposito to transfer to Saint Rose.

Esposito played immediately for the Golden Knights, appearing in nine matches and making three starts with a 0.39 goals against average before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in practice. Saint Rose advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals, but fell short, losing to eventual national champion Grand Valley State.

That was heart-breaking,” said Esposito. We were so close to achieving a national championship and Id always wanted to get to that point and be in the net and be confident and have a great team in front of me. I had it within my grips and then one day in practice I hurt my shoulder and it broke my heart.”

She had a great beginning last season, and made some huge saves in very significant games for us,” said Darling Gutheil. She was playing incredibly well, and unfortunately had the injury.”

Esposito underwent surgery and rehabilitation, and was able return to the field for preseason training in the spring. And this fall, she has compiled a 19-0-0 record, 0.18 GAA and .940 save percentage with 10 shutouts.

Being a senior, she wanted to do everything that she could to have a significant contribution to the team,” said Darling Gutheil. Everything she has earned, she deserves. She works to perfect her game in training and has high expectations.”

Its amazing to be able to play and not worry about getting hurt because its my last year,” said Esposito. Im giving everything I have.”

Esposito is not doing it all by herself. The Golden Knights boast a stellar backline that includes two All-Americans in Katie Whiting and Kelly Guerin on the defensive-minded squad.

Defense wins championships,” said Esposito. We always focus on defense first. Its great to have two All-Americans on the backline. They are such amazing players and have so much talent. They know the game more than I do, and it is great to have cooperating players in front of me. It makes my job that much easier.”

With nine seniors on the roster, the Golden Knights know what it takes to contend for that elusive national title.

They understand what theyre playing for, said Darling Gutheil. They understand how sweet it is to be in the national championships and what a phenomenal high it is to compete at the highest level in the country. As a result, they are incredibly motivated to try and earn that experience again. I think this group has all the ingredients, so were going to try to work towards that goal.”

Were so motivated,” said Esposito. Theres a sense of urgency because we have nine seniors. It feels more perfect this year … it feels like its our time.”

Saint Rose will compete for its fourth straight Northeast-10 Tournament title on Nov. 4 when the Golden Knights host American International in the league semifinals. If they win that contest, they will host the winner of the Merrimack-Franklin Pierce semifinal contest on Nov. 7. The Golden Knights rank third in the nation with a 3.79 scoring average, and fourth in Division II with a 0.316 GAA.