Stewart Frank has been through a lot the past three seasons with the Springfield College men’s soccer team. The senior from Pittsford, New York shined last year as the lead shot-stopper on the team’s historic run to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
In 19 games, he made 17 starts and saved 46 shots while compiling a record of 13-1-3 in net with a goals against average of 0.47 per game. Now in his senior year, Frank has once again been terrific, all while facing a totally different set of challenges.
The senior has started all 13 games for the Pride and has allowed only nine goals on the year while making 39 saves. Frank and the defense have pitched five shutouts and are allowing only 0.76 goals per game, but the success has come with a period of growing and maturation for the team.
“It’s been a change, it’s been a change, and I think you could ask the seniors that have been here the longest,” he said. “It’s been a change, but I think it’s been one that has been a positive change from under Siebert.”
Now under the direction of first-year head coach Tommy Crabill, Frank has had to adjust on the fly and adapt entering his senior year. He had to learn from a new coach and build chemistry with new defenders in front of him.
“It took us some time to figure things out, it took myself some time to figure some personal things out and everything with a whole new coach coming [into] senior year,” Frank said. “It was a little different, but I think it’s been a good change overall, I’m starting to see, personally, things that I wouldn’t have picked up on at the beginning of the season that have become more natural now.”
With so many things happening in front of him on the field, Frank was the backbone in net for the Pride in the early going. It was integral to the team’s success that Frank played well and he has done so this season.
“Stewart is a leader. He’s very local for us, he knows his position really well and he plays it very consistently, but beyond that he’s a communicator to the rest of the field,” said Crabill. “He’s a person that the other 10 field players can trust and believe in quite a bit. When you have a guy like that, a team can really lean on him in tough moments. He’s been a leader from preseason all the way to now. When his voice is going, we’re better.”
Frank has been solid under pressure for the Pride. The team’s biggest margin of victory this season is just two goals, so nothing has come easy for Frank or his teammates, and they have had to perform well in some pressure spots.
“It does put a little pressure on you, but you know being in the position I am in as a goalkeeper you have to be able to deal with those pressure situations and that’s something that I’ve learned throughout my four years here under Coach Siebert and now learning more under Coach Crabill,” Frank said.
Frank knows that if his team is going to be successful, it’s on him to be that last line of defense in the net and make the stops he needs too.
“You can’t really let the nerves get the best of you because once you do that, then that changes your game. It’s all a mental piece, you just gotta stay mentally strong the entire game. You gotta do what you need to do, you gotta go out there and get it and play the game you would as if it were the fifth or sixth minute.”
Frank has been huge in big spots for Springfield this year, and his coach believes one of his strong points is how well he reads the game and the opposition. “We’ve talked a lot about reading the game from every position and I think a goalkeeper, much like a catcher, can see the whole field and everything in front of him,” Crabill said.
He thinks Frank has done a great job of not only reading the defense, but making the right calls and helping his team succeed.
“Stew has done a good job of reading the game and seeing the spaces where we can attack and seeing the spaces where we need to close and be in tighter shape to not concede good opportunities for our opponents. Because he’s been in so many battles the past couple of years of his college experience, I trust fully that he’s ready for those moments.”
Frank has been part of a senior class that has done their job this season, and helped Springfield attain their 10-3 record. Their work does not go unnoticed by their coach.
“From the start last spring, when I first met those guys, I said they’re going to have to do a lot more than be just soccer players. That’s where I think the past couple weeks, the past couple games, our seniors have really flourished and built their roles even bigger,” Crabill said.
Frank has been huge in what he’s brought to the table this year.
Crabill continued, “That comes in the form of on field leadership, on field communication, and that builds a lot of trust with the rest of the team. Stew has definitely been massive in that effort, massive.”
Photos courtesy of Jack Margaros