Mikaela Coady walked slowly along the sidelines towards the end of the bench, where the Springfield women’s soccer team was congregating following a 2-1 home loss to Babson. She reached behind herself and removed a bag of ice from her lower back before tossing it aside to the bench next to two sets of crutches. The maroon uniforms of athletic trainers dotted the mass of the players’ white uniforms, as the ATs tended to anyone on the Pride who needed medical attention or relief.
With six games remaining in its regular season schedule, Springfield has dealt with a blitz of injuries that have nagged some on the field, and have sidelined others. The Pride have also endured the news of players being lost for the rest of the season. Three of the six contests left feature 10-0-1 Wiliams, 13-1 MIT, and 10-1-1 Wheaton as opponents. For Coady, this is all but further motivation to push through any pain that may afflict her, as her final year with Springfield steadily ticks towards crunch time.
The stakes are high, and the wear and tear of a full season has breeded plenty of sores. But that’s no excuse. Since being introduced to the game at the age of five, Coady has just wanted to run across a soccer field at full speed. Nicks and bruises meant nothing when facing off against private high schools like Xavier and Mercy, and rival Berlin as a Middletown Blue Dragon.
Coady has fought through plenty of lingering pain through her four years at Springfield as well. She was put through such a trial at the beginning of her collegiate career. As a freshman, Coady was competing for spots in the field that already featured Nicole Fowler, Brooke Hattinger, Jess Miller, Jenacee Bradbury, and Julia Cormier. Coady found herself staring this challenge in the face, while simultaneously fighting chronic blisters on her feet.
Senior defender Olivia Bernas entered the Springfield women’s soccer program with Coady and can easily remember one of her first memories of her. Bernas immediately saw leader attributes in the 5’4 midfielder turned forward, when Coady helped lead her class through the fitness test while in consistent pain. “[Her feet] were definitely hurting,” Bernas said. “You could just tell it on her face and in her voice, but she didn’t let it affect her at all. Especially during the test, she was pushing us to get to the line.”
Coady acknowledged the pressure she felt while trying out and experiencing her first few months on the team with an injury. “I was really set back. It was tough to overcome, since you’re already freaking out about making the team,” she said. “But I think it made me who I am today. I like that I went through it, because it helps me understand what freshman are going through now. If I’d start[ed] every game as a freshman, I wouldn’t understand what [first year players] go through.”
Springfield women’s soccer head coach John Gibson could see Coady’s initial frustration and anxiety when she first arrived. He attributes it to her work ethic and desire to play.
“She’s a perfectionist in a game which is not perfect, where close to good is good enough,” he said. “[Her freshman year] the game stressed her and the injury stressed her, because she couldn’t play to her potential.”
Despite the issues with her feet, Gibson suspected Coady would be instrumental in the success of the Pride’s offense following the graduations of Fowler, Hattinger, and Miller. Although she did not see any starting action in her first two years with the team, Coady saw action in 35 games. The numbers did not pop right away. She scored two goals in those 35 contest and registered a .048 shooting percentage her sophomore year. However, Coady was simply grateful for the opportunity to play; her time would come. “As a freshman you’re trying to prove to coach that you’re good enough to stay on the team, let alone earn a spot in the starting lineup, or even to touch the field at all,” she said. “A lot of freshman didn’t even see the field, so I was lucky enough that I did. Getting into the game at all was a huge accomplishment for me. It was reassurance that I could do it.”
Coady’s production spiked in her junior year, jumping to seven goals scored and 15 points in 2016.
“Defending her [during practice] is so difficult, because she works so hard to get to every ball,” said Bernas. “It can be two feet away from the line, she’ll go get it. She’s always right on the ball, so it’s hard to get a good touch on it.”
This season, Coady has tied that career high with six games left before the NEWMAC tournament.
“She’s still fighting some injuries, but she’s tough,” Gibson said. “She doesn’t complain. She has a lot of talent that’s really starting to show. She didn’t get off to the fastest start, but we stuck with her and she’s playing the best she’s ever played now.”
Springfield junior goalkeeper Jackie Davis believes the Pride have always received a competitive edge with Coady striking. If she can stand, she will run for the Pride until the end.
“Mikaela has such a will to win, and I think she instills that in all of us,” said Davis. “You watch her play and every ounce of her is left on the field. She’s always had some kind of injury, but she plays like she doesn’t have them. That’s how hard she plays – she plays at full force.”