Gombos plays key role at ESU
No one, not the East Stroudsburg University coaching staff or the players, could have envisioned how last season played out. Especially after a 1-0 shutout loss against Kutztown in the Warriors’ season opener.
But the ESU women’s soccer team didn’t just respond from that loss. The Warriors put together a historic season on the field that ended with a spot in the record books.
The Warriors (20-1-1) proceeded to win their next 20 games in 2014, including a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference regular season title and tournament championship. A 4-2 defeat in penalty kicks against West Virginia Wesleyan ended East Stroudsburg’s season in the second round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional.
That regular season title was the Warriors’ first in program history, and a recent Parkland High School graduate played a key role in that run.
“Last year was unbelievable,” said junior back Hannah Gombos. “It’s definitely better than anything I ever could have imagined coming into playing college soccer.
“To win the regular season was awesome, as we had never done that before. But then going into the playoffs, it just gave us the confidence boost that we needed. We knew that if we could make it that far without losing, that we could make it through the rest of the tournament without doing it.”
And that’s what the Warriors did, rolling over IUP in quarterfinals (5-0) and edging California in the semifinals (3-2). That set up a title-game rematch with the Golden Bears of Kutztown, the team responsible for their only loss.
With much more on the line, ESU got a bit of revenge with a 1-0 victory and the program’s third PSAC tournament championship.
“That’s all everybody wanted going into that game that day,” Gombos said. “It was literally the perfect ending to an amazing season—to win the game against the only team we lost to.”
Gombos’ versatility helped the Warriors fill an important void that kept their season running uninterrupted. After starting the year at her regular forward position, a slew of injuries to the defense resulted in a change for Gombos, who has scored four goals and added six assists in her first two years.
“Two of our backs went down in the same game,” Gombos said. “[Head coach Rob Berkowitz] put me in the back because of my speed and I had played that position for LVU Sonic over the summer. He tried me back there and I kind of worked well.
“That was definitely different and something I wasn’t used to, but it was nice to be able to step into that role for my team to take the place when people got injured.”
The Warriors graduated three of their backs from last year’s historic team, and since Gombos did so well at that position, Berkowitz has her on the back line again. That’s the type of player she is—unselfish and team-oriented.
“Forward will always be my go-to position, but I love playing back, too,” Gombos said. “Obviously I’ll do anything I need to for the team.”
The Warriors, understandably so, haven’t gotten off to as dominant of a start in 2015. And Gombos is just getting over a torn quad she suffered in the preseason.
But sitting at 6-3 in the PSAC near the midway point of the season, the Warriors are pleased with how the pieces are falling into place with a tough two-week stretch underway.
“Obviously we’re not going undefeated like we did last year,” Gombos said. “But I think for the amount of people we lost starter-wise and the returning players, I think we’re doing really well collaborating with all of the new girls and people stepping into new roles.”