By Tyler Browne
It was a game that was played with no publicity, in an empty stadium, six months after a normal collegiate soccer season would end.
Soccer is normally played during the fall. But the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic forced Springfield College to cancel all fall sports this year, and those teams are now playing games in the spring to stay prepared for next season.
On May 2nd, the Springfield College women’s soccer team took the field for their first home game since the fall of 2019 and their second and final game of the 2020-21 school year.
“It was a big deal to play at home, although it’s unfortunate there were no fans,” said coach John Gibson.
The rain was pouring down on the Irv Schmid Sports Complex as the Pride defeated Western New England by a score of 3-1.
“If only the weather forecast had held up, it would have been perfect,” said Gibson, who has served as the Pride’s head coach for 21 seasons.
The emotion of returning to Brock-Affleck Field was not lost on Gibson.
“It was an emotional event. It was the 24th of November, 2019, when we last played [at home],” said Gibson.
As the only home game of the year, Sunday served as the annual Senior Game, a chance for the rest of the team to say goodbye to the Class of 2021.
The 2020-21 women’s soccer team includes four seniors: Midfielders Cassidy Bailey and Ari Guenther, defender Christy Russo, and forward Sara Swetland.
Bailey joined the Pride in her junior year. In her one full season, she appeared in 18 games, finishing the year with one goal and one assist.
Guenther has mostly appeared off the bench in her time at Springfield. In three full seasons, she appeared in 13 games. Her first and only collegiate assist came in her junior season.
Russo spent her entire four years at Springfield College as a member of the Pride, although she missed her sophomore season due to an injury. In her final full season, she appeared in all 24 games, starting 21 of them. Russo also appeared in both of the Pride’s games this spring, putting up a strong defensive performance in a loss against Trinity on April 23rd.
Swetland has been an offensive force of the past four years. In 57 games, she put together 27 goals, 19 assists, and 73 total points. She made a total of 76 shots on goal across three full seasons.
While these seniors got to play two games in 2021, Gibson is aware of what an abrupt ending this is to their collegiate soccer careers.
“It’s not the way that they would have ever envisioned ending their careers. I’m glad that we could play at home. I know it probably means a lot for them just to play.”
Some of the seniors could return for the fall of 2021, either as grad students or through the NCAA granting them an extra season due to the pandemic. For now, though, they can look back on their last game with the fond memories of a strong victory against their cross-town rival.
Photo: Jack Margaros