This article was originally published in The Enterprise.
For the first time since 2000, the Stonehill College women's soccer team is nationally ranked this season.
The Skyhawks, off to a 6-0 start, have climbed to No. 17 in this week's National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division 2 poll after being No. 24 a week ago.
"Sometimes you know that (being ranked) can put a target on your back, but we don't pay attention to that. We just try to show up every day and play our best.''
Less than three weeks into the season, the Skyhawks have already exceeded their win total from 2015 when they finished 4-10-4, including 3-8-3 in the Northeast-10 Conference.
Stonehill was picked to finish 12th in the NE-10 preseason coaches poll, but it is 2-0 in the conference.
The Skyhawks are coming off an 8-1 rout of The College of Saint Rose last Saturday, defeating a program that won the 2011 national championship, reached the Final Four six times in a recent seven-year stretch and missed the NCAA tournament only once in the past 14 seasons.
Stonehill graduated just one player, Meagan Elliott, and has 10 seniors on this year's roster.
"Losing only one senior last year – she was a big part of the team – but now with 10 seniors, it's kind of as if it's been building and preparing every year since they were freshmen in 2013,'' said Wilson. "We've gotten better every year, played better soccer every year and hopefully the results will get better.
"The fact that all 30 players on the roster are bringing something on and off the pitch, that chemistry really helps. There's a commitment to it.''
The Skyhawks have given up just three goals in the six wins with senior goalkeeper Jamie Block, now in her third season as a starter, recording a 0.50 goals against average while making 23 saves.
"She's such a leader this year,'' said Wilson. "The fact that her mentality now is catching up to her physical abilities, she's been an outstanding goalkeeper and a leader for the program.''
"Nicole proved early on in preseason that not only does she have the physical ability to do it, but her soccer IQ is high,'' said Wilson. "She knows the game. She's very calm on the ball. She doesn't play like a freshman.''
Stonehill has a pair of NE-10 tests this week, hosting Southern New Hampshire University this afternoon and traveling to fifth-ranked Adelphi University on Saturday night.
SNHU, coached by Brockton High and Massasoit Community College graduate Elie Monteiro, went 11-5-2 a year ago and is 5-2 after a win over 10th-ranked Bridgeport on Monday night and 2-1 in the conference this season.
Adelphi won the NE-10 championship last season and is off to a 5-0 start, 3-0 in the NE-10.