By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The La Salle women’s soccer team is working hard to return to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year.

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Even after last night’s non-conference, 2-1 loss to Princeton, the Explorers are riding high with a 13-4 record that includes a perfect 7-0 mark in the Atlantic 10.

“I’m really satisfied,” head coach Paul Royal told KYW Newsradio prior to last night’s game.  “I think it’s a carry-over from last year’s success.  But I think  our kids really come in with the mentality and the belief now, to be a top-ranked type of program.  It is great seeing us continue to perform at the level we’re capable of.  I hope we are going to continue to peak as the NCAA Tournament rolls around.”

LISTEN: Matt Leon interviews Paul Royal

La Salle coach Paul Royal (credit: La Salle Soccer)

That success last year saw La Salle make it’s first even appearance in the NCAA Tournament as they completed the campaign with a 15-2-3 mark.  The Explorers are 14-0-2 in their last 16 Atlantic 10 regular season games (last loss came in 2010), and that conference dominance means a lot to Royal.

“It’s really important.  A small school like La Salle, it is great to go through the A-10, now 7-0 and I think it’s been (16) games we’ve been undefeated in.  It’s a different change, we’re not really accustomed to that type of environment, but I think our kids go out there everyday and they realize that these games are so meaningful and so important.”

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The Explorers are getting contributions up and down the roster.  They are led offensively by sophomore forward Kelsey Haycook and junior midfielder Renee Washington who have combined for 14 goals and 10 assists.  But 11 different players have found the back of the net for La Salle in support of redshirt junior goalkeeper Gabrielle Pakhtigian who has notched five shutouts, coming back from a serious knee injury that cost her all of the 2011 season.  She says this season has been a lot of fun so far.

“It has been,” Pakhtigian says.  “It’s been a really good time.  We’ve got a great group of girls this year and we’ve been having a lot of fun just playing and competing, week-in and week-out at practice and then getting ready for the weekends.”

LISTEN: Matt Leon interviews Gabrielle Pakhtigian

Next up for the Explorers, a Friday date with St. Joe’s as they look to stay perfect in the conference.

“We’re really just trying to peak and prepare ourselves for this conference run in two weeks (A-10 Tournament) and really get ourselves in the driver’s seat for the NCAA Tournament,” Royal says.

The Atlantic 10 Tournament begins November 1st, and it will be held in Kingston, Rhode Island.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.

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