By Ryan Carius ’21
On April 12, the Providence College Women’s Soccer Team concluded a tremendous season. Their draw against St. John’s University cemented a final record of 7-2-3. PC came heartbreakingly close to competing for the Big East tournament, but missed out even with a strong record because of new tournament requirements adopted for the altered season. In addition to this season being played in the spring, as opposed to the normal fall season, entrance to the Big East tournament was determined by winning percentage, not overall record. The conference was also then split into two divisions, with only two teams receiving a bid from each division.
Although the Friars missed the tournament, coach Sam Lopes praised the team for their tireless effort throughout the spring: “It was a very successful season, and a lot of it can be attributed to the talent that exists in the group and our depth.” During the duration of the 90-minute games, Lopes was able to confidently utilize 21 players, all capable of playing and helping the team win.
Lopes also remains optimistic about a season that was filled with success: “The group is certainly disappointed, but I don’t think that erases the success that we had and also the level of excitement that we have going towards our fall season because we know what we are capable of.”
The record is impressive in itself, but it is made more so when considering the uncertainty born out of the shift from the fall to the spring season, and more importantly, an offseason training program in the winter. However, the offseason proved to be vital for creating team chemistry after nearly a year of instability. “All the new players and all the returning players got a semester to some capacity to train and develop some relationships with each other before having to play a competitive match,” said Lopes as he explained the benefits of the long offseason. As tough as training in the harsh winter conditions and acclimating to warmer spring temperatures can be, Lopes believes that “the spring showcased that level of connection amongst the group from a fall semester of training.”
That group was filled with freshmen who had the tall task of replacing a strong roster of graduating seniors. They did just that, playing to the standard set by the previous year’s players. Goalkeeper Emma Bodmer ’24, in particular, had to replace Friar legend Shelby Hogan ’20RS. Throughout the season, Bodmer proved to be a worthy successor to Hogan, achieving great success in just her first year at the collegiate level.
Lopes praised Bodmer’s abilities in the net, saying that “we just felt Emma had a level of confidence and presence about her.” After “spending some time with her in the fall, we felt that she would be equally capable of the job in goal as Shelby [Hogan] had been in the past.”
Along with Bodmer’s tremendous play, Meg Hughes ’24 was voted Big East Freshman of the Year, becoming only the second PC women’s soccer player to ever receive the honor. Hughes led the Friars in points with 12, assists with six, and tied for the team lead in goals scored alongside Amber Birchwell ’21 with four. Lopes was not at all surprised by Hughes’ receiving the honor, saying that it was “really telling of her capabilities and the amount of respect that she has already earned among her peers in the league.”
In addition to both Bodmer and Hughes, Lopes lauded the play of the six other Friar freshmen, who each had a large impact on the season. Lopes expressed great enthusiasm for the return of these players in the fall. “Those eight individuals have come in and already established themselves within our program, and have developed an understanding of what it takes to compete at this level,” explained Lopes. “I think they will be really instrumental as we continue to be on this consistent successful trajectory.”
Also vital to the team’s success were its seniors. They played the role of establishing the winning standard of the team, constantly driving up the level of play that would lead to the program’s ultimate success. Lopes highlighted the contributions of the seniors who “did an unbelievable job in helping the new players to get settled in and really helped educate them about who we are and our cultural values.” With the extra year of eligibility option for seniors, some will be returning for the fall season, ensuring that at least some of the team’s leadership will still be around next year as well.
When asked about his goals for next season, Lopes explained that it is about the daily battles that will ultimately decide the team’s success. “What we are working towards is being a winner consistently day in and day out,” he explained. “We took significant steps towards that this year.” From this response, it is no surprise that the Friars were able to have a great season in a competitive division such as the Big East.
As PC turns their focus to next season, it is safe to say that they will most certainly be in the mix for a Big East title. “I think we have the talent and I think we have the right fixture of players, but more importantly I think we have the right attitude for it,” said Lopes confidently.
With the majority of players from this season returning, the right attitude in place, and an inspiring coach, it will be exciting for the student body to attend a full slate of games in person this fall season. Lopes proudly stated, “I think now we have established a program that is nationally competitive, and for us in a highly competitive league, we want the next step to be being competitive to win the Big East.”
The Friars certainly showed the potential to do just that this spring, and with a hopefully normal season set for the fall, the sky is the limit for Lopes and the Friars.