Jackie Davis stood on the sidelines in shock, totally amazed. She’d just watched her teammate, Ciara Boucher, make an unbelievable save on a penalty kick. Something she’d watched a lot in their three years as teammates, and still she could not believe it.
“How did you do that?”
That was the question Davis, a junior goalie at Springfield, asked Boucher as she ran off the field following the kick.
Boucher’s response? “Honestly, I don’t know.”
Goalie is a position of failure. There are times were they can make miraculous saves and be viewed as heroes, but there are also those times that a shot is kicked perfectly that no matter what a goalie cannot save it.
Boucher saved 228 shots in her time at Springfield College and more than a few of those were high stakes kicks or shots that seemed destined to score. She couldn’t explain how she does it and no one else could either.
She left crowds stunned, opponents infuriated, and her own coach shaking his head.
“The opponent took a shot and I said out loud on the sidelines that’s going in,” explained women’s coach John Gibson. The shock on his face was still there as he recalled, “She got a hand on it, somehow. Those are the ones that really stick in my mind.”
“She’s done it so often and it’s amazing.”
Four years have come and gone and now in the spring Boucher will graduate from Springfield College, and what a career she will have left behind.
Sixty-four starts. 6,108 minutes played. Only 50 goals allowed. A save percentage of 82, and a career record of 38-15-11.
Boucher is from Manchester, Conn. and it was there that her soccer career began. She was surrounded by the game her entire life and it was only natural for her to start playing it herself.
“I started playing a while back, when I was 3 or 4, my parents just kind of threw me into rec league,” he said. “I tried a lot of different sports but from there on out but that’s all I really found a deep passion for.”
Boucher’s father was a coach. He never allowed her to play for him though, instead he would only give her tips and pointers on the side. Her career as a goalie was more an accident than anything else.
“I started playing goalie in eighth grade. I was just thrown in randomly and I fell in love with it” said Boucher. “It was actually sort of just because no one else wanted to play it, so I stepped up to try and loved it.”
That love was accompanied by an outstanding skill set. Gibson saw it the first time he saw Boucher in net, “She was always talented right from the start. She had the ability, just not the experience.”
Gibson saw the talent and played a role in getting Boucher to Springfield. She had interest from several schools, but was drawn to the feel of Springfield.
“Talking to John about playing here sold me instantly. I came to visit and I just loved the atmosphere, it’s a DIII program but it’s ran almost like a Division 1 program. Everyone is so committed and passionate.”
Boucher had made it to the collegiate level. One drawback to her game had been her size. She is only 5’ 4” which can be a red flag for some coaches when evaluating their recruits.
Gibson was not fazed, “I had smaller end keepers before that had been successful. She can leap so she’s fine and she doesn’t really get caught out of position.” His intuition was right. Boucher arrived and fit in seamlessly.
“We had Brooke [Fairman] who was 5’10” and Lucy [Gillett] who was 5’10” and then Ciara at her size was ahead of Brooke and just as good as Lucy. The height of the keeper is more in the minds of the forwards than anything.”
Being at a physical disadvantage usually draws out the athletes with the most heart. Boucher was no exception. The height was admittedly on her mind most of the time, but she never allowed it to affect her on the field.
“In my position your used to seeing girls 5’6” or 5’7” and up and that had an impact on me throughout my career. I just try to make up for it with my athleticism as best I can. I tried not to overthink my height and let that get in my head.”
Boucher added the effect of her height on opponents too, “Other teams definitely look at it like ‘oh she’s short’ but I don’t let it affect me or my play.”
For all of her accomplishments, Boucher may best be remembered for her ability to save penalty kicks. It’s what got her the NEWMAC Women’s Soccer Championship Tournament most outstanding player her junior and senior years.
Davis is Boucher’s backup at goalie so she spends more time with her than nearly anyone else. Despite watching her routines and habits everyday she continues to be amazed at what she could do in those situations.
“She makes saves that are unbelievable, I know people know that they are insane, but she makes those really good saves and it looks easy because she’s that good.”
One of those unbelievable times was this past fall in the NEWMAC Tournament Opener for the Pride. Coach Gibson remembers the situation fondly.
“In the quarterfinals this year we went through nine rounds of penalties with Wellesley. In the sudden death we missed so if they scored it was over and we were out,” he then paused and began chuckling.
“She saved it and we won.”
Beyond her ability on the field Boucher also brought a comfort to those around her. When Boucher graduates this spring, Davis will lose a role model.
“Having her with me has meant alot to me because we are very close friends. I’m able to look up to her and feed off that talent and energy.”
Boucher was just named a recipient of the United Soccer Coaches Award for the 2017 season season, another accolade on an already long list.
She walks away the programs record holder for shutouts in a single season with 11, and career shutout with 31 over a 3 year span. More importantly, she leaves having touched everyone she met in her time here.
Davis put it best.
“I don’t think she’ll ever know how good of a soccer player she is or how big of a mark she left on this team. I love being around her and she makes me look forward to going to practices and games.”