As the warm and humid summer air is replaced by the crisp fall air customary to New England the Springfield College women’s soccer team comes into this season with hopes high for a deep run of a different kind. Despite graduation and losing some key players, hopes are high as ever for the Pride to breakthrough and win their first NEWMAC tournament title since 2015.
After ending a 16-6-2 season with securing the ECAC Championship in penalty kicks, Springfield is hungry to not just get back into postseason play but to return to the NCAA Tournament. However, after graduating a number of key seniors in all facets of the game the Pride will need both new and returning players to step into bigger roles this season.
For the first time since the 2014 season the Pride will have someone other than Ciara Boucher in net. Boucher was a stalwart and also holds the program record for both shutouts in a season (11 last year) and for a career (31). With this loss, the team looks to senior Jackie Davis to take over goaltending duties. As for the impact Boucher left on the program, Davis, who’s started three of four games this year, had nothing but positive things to say.
“We miss her on the field and she made an impact on this program that won’t be forgotten.”
Up front for the Pride, they faced a number of graduations of their entire forward line, including Mikaela Coady, Mary Silva, Kim Quiles, as well as key contributors Monique Marcelino and Dakota Kelly.
The loss of Quiles is big, as she scored 16 goals last season and that mark gave her the third highest goal total in a season, and the fifth highest for a career (36). Despite losing so much offensive firepower, head coach John Gibson isn’t worried about others stepping up.
“Last year we had an all senior front three and two seniors playing in the attacking midfield position. We lost all of them. That’s given others the opportunity to step up.”
Players to Watch
When you talk about Springfield’s team this year, it is impossible to not talk about Amanda Wright. Referred to as “a track star when she came in” by Gibson, Wright has taken the step from being fast to becoming one of the most complete players for the Springfield. A year after appearing in all but one of the Pride’s games (starting nine of those), Wright is poised to be one of the senior leaders for this group. Gibson surely thinks of Wright as one of those leaders for this team.
“She’s always smiling, and she works really hard in practice. She’s what I refer to when I’m talking to the players as a ‘good pro’. Good pros are the ones who work really hard every day and make the people around them better. She’s an example of a good pro.”
As Wright prepares to step into a larger role, it is not just Gibson who believes Wright is a leader of the team as Davis marveled at how Wright really sparks the team.
“Amanda is a spark plug for the offense. She sets the tone for the offense and she does a good job of setting a good example.”
The second player to watch isn’t necessarily a player but more of a group of players. That group is the goalies. Between Davis and freshmen Bridget O’Connor, who started against Roger Williams, as well as senior Izzy Inglese and freshmen Caitlin Normoyle, there is a mutual feeling around the team that any one of these goalies can win on any given night.
With the Pride playing a system of playing out of the back, a good goalie is key, especially one that communicates extremely well. Senior defender Rachel Feliu has been impressed with what she has seen from Springfield’s goalies.
“No matter who’s back there shot stopping has been really good and we communicate a lot. The communication has been really good between the goalies and the rest of the team.”
Graduation can hurt any team, but one thing is for certain with this team. They most certainly have the talent to win a talented NEWMAC conference this year. Despite losing seniors in the forward group and Boucher, the Pride have players all over the field ready to step up when their name is called.
Offensively, Springfield still has a unit poised to score a large number of goals. Between Wright and freshmen sensation Kaleigh Dale the offensive attack has already proved a formidable opponent for opposing defenses. Gibson remains excited with the offensive unit this year despite the losses.
“Kaleigh is doing really well in the midfield. For a freshman she can do an awful lot. She’s got a great touch and she keeps the ball beautifully. Syd [Wine] has really stepped up from last year she’s really developed and worked incredibly hard this spring,” he said. “Kellie Gambell has turned herself into an accomplished soccer player as well. She’s incredibly quick so that helps. We’re lucky considering how much we lost to be where we are.”
From what this team has shown to start the season one thing is clear; they can score with the best of them. However, not to be outdone, the Pride defensively has only allowed two goals in their first four games this year. In a conference like the NEWMAC where a couple of goals is the difference between a 5-5 record in conference and an 8-2 record, every goal is important. For Springfield if they get the type of production on offense they’ve gotten early on combined with their solid defensive performances, this a team that could really go far. However, the difference maker will be if the Pride get the production and big saves they have been so used to with Boucher out of their current group of goalies.
The potential is there for Springfield. In their way in the NEWMAC stand a number of solid teams and nationally ranked MIT. However, if the Pride can avoid injuries this is a team at full health that certainly has the talent to go toe to toe with anyone in conference. Everyone, especially the seniors are motivated to make this last year count. Wright is certainly ready for her last ride.
“From the senior’s point of view, it’s our last year to really show people who we are and what our team has with us. We really want to go out strong and try to win the NEWMAC and more.”