Merrimack’s Goodspeed helping lead Rivier

A lot of the players Rivier University women’s soccer coach Laura Ray has brought in have been gems so far for the Raiders.

But their time to really shine is down the road.

“We have a bunch of kids locally,” Ray said, “and to be honest, most of them fell in my lap. We are young. I really think consistency will be the key, but they work hard for me.

“I think they have it in them (to be a conference power). I expect it to be a different season next year.”

It hasn’t been a bad one this year, as the Raiders, going into the week, were 6-9 overall, but 1-8 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.

But they feel they are closing the gap; games that were two and three goal losses a year ago have been just one goal defeats this year.

“We had six seniors starting last year,” Ray said. “I think this year is giving my players a foundation. As an example, we lost 6-0 to St. Joe’s (of Maine) last year, and this year we lost only 1-0.”

Ray has zero – repeat, zero – seniors on the roster. Locally, there’s Emmary Nelson, a sophomore midfielder, formerly of Nashua High School North. There’s Hollis Brookline alum Lydia Brown, a freshman midfielder. Add in another sophomore, midfielder and North alum Colby Creteau.

And no one can forget the team’s leading goal scorer, former Pinkerton Academy standout Maggie Cohoon and starting goaltender Lauren Goodspeed, a freshman from Merrimack.

Goodspeed is front and center. She has a 2.31 goals-against average and .807 save percentage, going through the ups and downs of her first college season.

“She’s fantastic,” Ray said. “At first, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to play, but then she decided to play. And all she says now is that she couldn’t believe she wasn’t going to play. She’s got a lot of talent.”

Cohoon transferred in from the University of New Haven, and at last look had 14 goals and five assists, the leading offensive force for the Raiders by far.

“She wanted to come back home,” Ray said. “She’s got another speed. Really, really fast, and the ball stays glued to her foot. She just wants to score. That’s all she thinks about.”

Nelson, meanwhile, “has been a strong, strong player for us all season. A fantastic leader for us on the field.”

Creteau has suffered through some injuries, but Ray says the potential is clearly there.

“This kid plays through everything,” Ray said. “If I could get my players to be that way in terms of wanting the ball so badly – she has great vision. I think injuries have been holding her back.”

Brown, meanwhile, manning things in the middle, has been impressive with her athletic ability, Ray says.

“She’s just a fast, strong, superior athlete,” Ray said.

Even the team’s second leading scorer, Megan Caron, is from nearby Tyngsborough, Mass. The Raiders haven’t had to look far to find young, talented players who can compete at the Division III level.

Ray wants her players to understand that better days are ahead.“I’ve got to get them to understand that,” she said. “We’re going to continue to grow.”