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Positive Power

by Jake Kring-Schreifels
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Kristina Maksuti Leads an Energetic Freshmen Class into Conference Play

Winston Churchill famously said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” I have a feeling that this isn’t the slogan the Fordham Women’s Soccer team rallies behind each day. But then again, after you watch this team play, it certainly could be.

The Lady Rams, under seasoned head coach Ness Selmani, are in the midst of another strong season. Currently hoisting a 7-5-2 record, their wins have come against the likes of Cornell, Delaware State, Stony Brook, and Manhattan rival Columbia. More importantly, they have started conference play on a solid foot, tying season opener St. Joseph’s in a scoreless affair, beating another Philadelphia team, Temple, 1-0 last Sunday, and splitting games between Xavier (2-1) and Dayton (1-2).

“Our style of play is aggressive,” said Coach Selmani. “We’re a positive, always go forward, never die team and we play with high pressure [on the other team].”

Selmani’s philosophy has certainly been proven to work as he has coached the Rams to five conference championship births in the last eight seasons. In 2006, he helped them earn 14 overall wins, the most in program history, and in 2007 they earned another winning season, their sixth in the last seven. So what makes this team so unique to his teams in the past?

“The freshman class is the best I’ve seen in 16 years,” Selmani said. “They’re good students who love the game. They think and practice positively, enjoy winning, and make it a new team.”

Leading this positive freshman class is forward Kristina Maksuti, a phenom out of Bethlehem Central High School who earned 2010 Suburban Council Player of the Year as a senior. Her dynamic play and energy has brought a new side to this Rams team and its quickly catching the public eye. In the latest TopDrawerSoccer rankings, Maksuti finished as the #4 top player in the Atlantic-10 Conference.

“Maksuti is going to break records at Fordham, she will be an All-American and is a program changer,” said Selmani.

That may be the easiest thing he has to predict. To put things in perspective, the freshman scoring record for Fordham is 23 points; Maksuti already has tied that mark and we’re just halfway through conference play. These accolades don’t come from just anywhere though. They begin on the practice field, and it becomes clear that she and the rest of her teammates have something going for them other than their personal talent. When asked what the biggest strength of this 2011 team was, Coach Selmani didn’t hesitate.

“It’s the players’ positive thinking,” he said. “They bring enjoyment in every department and heart isn’t a question, they’ve got the perfect mix of heart and skill.”

“We just have a high energy level and we never shut up,” Maksuti said jokingly of her fellow freshmen. “We come before practice and enjoy what we’re doing.”

This glass half-full enthusiasm certainly made it easy for her to connect with the team’s veteran players. It also helps that her objectives for her first year of collegiate soccer weren’t an individual set of statistics so much as a desire to mesh as a unit.

“My goals were really to mix into the team in a positive way and we’ve done that,” Maksuti said. “We’re a very close-knit team, we like hanging around each other. We’re all friends and we came together near the beginning of the season.”

As the season progresses, it appears the Rams will once again be in solid contention for the top spot in the A-10. Coach Selmani wants to make sure, however, that his girls realize the magnitude of conference play, that each match can be a crucial characterization of the team.

“Every game is like the Super bowl,” Selmani stated. “Our freshman will learn that conference games are a different kind of game but we’ll be in the top again because we believe we have the talent.”

Time will tell, but as of now it seems they’re catching on pretty quickly. In fact, playing at home, they’re a comfortable 5-1-1. The positivity that emanates between them boasts a confident arrogance that gets justified on the field each time. Even Maksuti can’t hide her affirming intrepidity.

“We stack up very well; we have a great group of girls and I expect great things,” she said.

How could you not with an attitude like that?

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