The Catholic University women's soccer team had the daunting task of playing its first seven games on the road, but as it turned out, that was not such a bad thing.

The Cardinals head into their home opener today against North Carolina Wesleyan in the CUA D.C. Classic with a 7-0-0 record and a first-ever top-10 ranking in the Division III Mid-Atlantic regional poll.

"Honestly, I thought we could come out of that with a 5-2 record," Coach J.P. Sousa said. "Four and three would have been good, but 7-0, I never would have imagined it."

The Cardinals recorded shutouts in their first six matches before defeating St. Mary's (Md.), 4-3, Tuesday with three goals in the final 12 minutes 50 seconds to overcome a two-goal deficit. Overall, they have outscored their opponents 32-3.

Catholic has had a women's varsity program since 1985 but, until recently, wasn't much of a factor in the Capital Athletic Conference. It went 12-5-0 in 2002, 14-5-1 in '03 and 10-9-1 last year. Sousa, an assistant for three years, was a co-head coach last year before taking full responsibility this season.

Sousa, 29, had coached youth soccer in Northern Virginia for several years and was an assistant at Oakton High School. The Catholic job is part-time and he is pursuing a master's degree in education at George Mason University.

Laura Kaye, a senior midfielder and co-captain from Annandale who played at Bishop Ireton High School, is the only local player on the roster. She is second on the team in goals (eight) and points (19).

Kate Rosenberg, a junior midfielder from Portland, Ore., leads Catholic with nine goals, and Diana Napolitano, a sophomore from New Jersey, has contributed four goals and six assists.

The Cardinals will need to beat out Mary Washington, a national power, in the CAC tournament Oct. 30-Nov. 5 in order to earn their first NCAA tournament berth.

-- Steven Goff