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Rookies grab the spotlight in opening weekend of women’s soccer season

Rookies scored six of the eight goals scored by local teams in the opening weekend of the college soccer season

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After waiting six months to get her college career started, it took Kelli McGroarty less than 19 minutes to find the back of the net for the first time for La Salle and less than five minutes after that to score again.

McGroarty, an Eastern Regional HS grad from Voorhees, N.J., led the Explorers in their 4-0 rout to open the season at home against Villanova on Saturday. She was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week and made TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Team of the Week but she wasn’t the only newcomer with an impressive debut.

Conestoga HS grad Caitlin Donovan, the younger sister of Drexel star Chris Donovan, had a brace of her own in the second half and Washington Township HS grad Giovanna Castorina recorded an assist on McGroarty’s first goal. McGroarty, Castorina, redshirt frosh Jordynn Stollard (Washington Township, N.J. / Washington Township HS) and Alysa Gagiulo (Glendora, N.J. / Triton Regional HS) gave the Explorers four rookies in the starting XI.

First-year players Chloe Khehil, a Shawnee HS grad from Medford, N.J., and Sam Dumont both scored second half goals for Saint Joseph’s in their 4-1 win over Delaware State to start the season on Sunday. Dumont and Khelil both came off the bench in the match, but first-year players Maddie Anderson (Perkasie, Pa. / Pennridge) and Natalie Nevins both made their debuts in the starting lineup.

Temple lost their season opener 3-0 to conference rivals UCF but three first-year players started in head coach Nick Bochette’s Owls debut: Roisin McGovern, Lexy Endres (Medford, N.J. / Shawnee) and Brooke Kane (Philadelphia, Pa. / Nazareth Academy).

Villanova, meanwhile, started a trio of rookies in their loss to La Salle: McKenzie Coleman, Emma Weaver and Lauren Ashman.

While normally first-year players have only a couple weeks of training camp to impress coaching staffs before the regular season starts in late August, the fall season cancelation because of Covid-19 gave newcomers several months to get acquainted with their teams even with training for the most part being done in small pods.

Saturday’s openers showed how ready so many newcomers to college soccer were to make an impact.

Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for TheCup.us, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

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