Gold Rush Feature: Drawing Attention
Aug. 30, 2010
This article was originally published in the Aug. 28 edition of Gold Rush.
By Sam Walker
Bianca D'Agostino will be a marked woman this season. She is as experienced as probably any collegiate player with experience not only on the Wake Forest team, but as a member of the U-23 Women's National Team. As one of four seniors and one of just five returning starters on a team that finished fifth in the ACC and completed its season in the NCAA quarterfinals, there's no doubt D'Agostino will draw attention. And as the player in the midfield that helps direct traffic, create space and scoring opportunities, her role on this year's squad will be key in continuing success.
"She has established herself in the league and coaches take notice of her when we play in the league," Deacon coach Tony da Luz said. "Since coming from Penn State, she has taken on a big role for us. She is a very good two-way player; she's a great defender, attacks well, defends well and is a good passer. She is a very balanced soccer player. She has gotten national team experience, and that has helped her game and mentality. We look to her as our captain, and she will set the tone. When she is on, she does that (sets the tone)."
Wake Forest got D'Agostino from Penn State after her freshman season, and it's been a good match. In just two seasons, she has started 39 of 44 games played, with five goals and eight assists.
"I just think it wasn't a good fit for her at Penn State," da Luz said. "I think she was playing out of position as a defender in the back, and her best position is right in the middle of things. I think she kind of checked things out as to where she fit in. I was up there a few hours after I got the release. I went for a home visit and actually tried to get her in in the spring semester but couldn't pull it off. She came in in the fall and did really well.
"I met her family, and they're a total soccer family. Her three brothers play soccer, and that impressed me a lot. Playing against her three brothers her whole life impressed me, so I knew she was a tough kid. I'm really happy it's has worked out for both of us."
Now D'Agostino is a senior and not only a recognized talent but also prepared for the challenges that lie ahead in the 2010 season.
"This summer I spent a lot of time training with my brothers," D'Agostino said. "I have three brothers and my oldest brother played in college at JMU, and the other two played professionally -- one in Croatia, and the other with one of the men's teams in Connecticut. I actually trained with the Boston Breakers (of the WPS League) this summer. It was an hour and a half from my house, and I would drive in once or twice a week and just kind of went in as a practice player to play with and against players like Kristine Lilly and Lauren Cheney. It was very intense, but I did well, and I really didn't have a choice but to play quickly. I watched Kristine Lilly and Leslie Osborne, and it was kind of weird because I'm a senior this year. But I went there, and it was like I was a freshman. I watched to see how they were leading, what they were doing, how they were doing it so I could bring that back here."
Lilly is the World's All-Time Caps Leader (man or woman), two-time World Cup and Olympic Champion and the second all-time leading scorer in U.S. and world history. Osborne played for Santa Clara from 2001-2004. As a senior, Osborne was the winner of the NCAA's prestigious Honda Award as the nation's top female athlete in her sport. In 2007, she started four matches at the FIFA Women's World Cup in China.
So D'Agostino played with and learned from some of the world's best. She is as prepared as any player could be to begin her senior campaign and hopes to lead a younger and less experienced team back to NCAA post-season play. The team is possibly no less talented, just new to each other and presently working on building chemistry. The team will look to D'Agostino for leadership, but her teammates may not hear her say much. However, she will speak volumes with her play and work ethic.
"She is a quiet leader, not a rah-rah kind of player," da Luz said. "She's a leader by the way she plays. She is not afraid to mix it up physically, so she sets the tone for the team. I think she will be a little more vocal just being a senior. We lost some big personalities so I think she is taking on the responsibility to be more vocal, but it's not really in her nature. She is just a soccer player."
"I learned I need to make our team come together," D'Agostino said. "We have a lot of fresh faces, so I need to be the go-to person, the middle man. We're a pretty close team as it is. Since we are so young and had a great year last year, we are starting from the basics since this is a completely new team. This is a fresh start. We have a lot of great freshmen, but they need to get adjusted. I had the opportunity to do that twice (at Penn State and Wake), so I know how that is. My role is to be the connector and just constantly be involved. I'm not the most vocal leader, but I can be positive, and my teammates can see what I'm doing and respect what I'm doing. I need them as much as they need me."
With just five career goals, D'Agostino does not have a reputation as a scorer. This season she may be called upon to do more in that area, and it's something she is looking forward to in hopes of completing her Wake Forest career as a more complete player.
"It's something I've thought about, and that is one of my goals for this season," D'Agostino said. "I want to make that happen -- score more goals."
"It's not something we've spent a lot of time specifically talking about, but I know she wants to score more goals and convert more," da Luz said. "She had a lot of chances last year, and her conversion rate wasn't that great. I know it]s part of her game that she wants to improve to kind of fill out her abilities. Finishing is the one part of the game she needs to have confidence in. She spent a lot of time this summer working on it, and I think she'll be a lot more confident this season."
The Wake Forest women's soccer team was picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, as voted upon by the league's 11 head coaches. It's a source of motivation being picked so low after finishing last season as a quarterfinalist in the NCAA Tournament, but it's a position with which the program is familiar.
"It's kind of a slap in the face, but I think when you are freshmen and sophomores, you don't really have a choice but to step up," D'Agostino said.
"When you have a few seniors and juniors, you either step up or sit back. It's hard because you want to give younger players time to adjust, but at the same time we need them to come out ready to go. That's just a case of getting comfortable and being more confident and getting our jitters out."