by Jack Belanger on May 6, 2021
Leo Hainline ’22
Catherine Zimmerman ’16, one of the most accomplished soccer players in Providence College program history, recently added to her successful career in Australia by winning the W-League Championship with the Melbourne Victory. She played a crucial part in Melbourne’s success, scoring six goals and providing one assist across 10 games this season. Zimmerman started up front at forward in the W-League finals against Sydney FC, a game in which the Victory won in dramatic fashion. Indeed, the 1-0 score did little to reflect the thrilling nature of the game. This was Melbourne’s first W-League Championship since the 2013-14 season.
At PC, Zimmerman was a three-time All-Big East selection. In 2014, she became the first player in program history to make the All-Big East First team, an honor she would again receive in 2015. When playing for the Friars, Zimmerman also helped the team reach back-to-back Big East tournament appearances and helped the team reach the championship game in 2015.
Zimmerman attributes much of her professional success to her experiences in Friartown: “My time at Providence was great. I think I owe a lot of success to [coach] Sam Lopes, he believed in me and worked with me and has done so much for me on and off the field, so I owe a lot to him.” She continued by saying that Lopes “was probably one of the best coaches I’ve had in my lifetime. Playing under him and his drive and passion and knowledge for the game, I think he just helped me become a better soccer player rather than just an athlete.”
After her collegiate career, Zimmerman began playing professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League. She signed her first professional contract with Sky Blue FC, the team she watched while growing up in New Jersey. Her career really took off in Australia when Zimmerman signed for Calder United SC in 2018. In two seasons at the club, she won back-to-back Golden Boots, scoring an impressive 78 goals in 56 games. In 2020, Zimmerman signed for Melbourne Victory, and soon began enjoying instant success playing in Australia’s top league.
Zimmerman has embraced Australia as a new home, attributing part of her breakthrough to the country’s lifestyle and culture. “Australia in general is a great place to live,” said Zimmerman. “It’s pretty relaxed as far as the lifestyle goes, so I think I found a bit more freedom here, as where in the U.S. there is a lot of pressure to do the normal thing like work a nine-to-five job.”
“I have my soccer career, but I also do some coaching, work some random jobs, and also just with the social and life aspect,” she continued. “There’s a lot to do and a lot to see and a lot of fun to have. Overall, you get a little bit of everything here, and I think that comes down to how the sporting system here is different than in the U.S.”
Melbourne Victory’s first championship since the 2013-14 campaign was even more impressive given the uncertainty of the pandemic. Zimmerman explained that this was a major challenge during the season. “A schedule was set and then it was changing around every week,” she said. “You’re preparing for a game on the weekend and then you get an email or a call saying we’re not playing this weekend, and we’re playing in four days not in Perth but in Sydney, or something like that.”
Zimmerman explained that there were a lot of changes and uncertainty, but overall, she thought “the league in general did a good job of dealing with it. I think their goal was always to do whatever it takes to get the season in, so I’m appreciative of that and I think that’s something they should take credit for.”
The friendships in the locker room and leadership both from players and coaches were a major reason the team enjoyed so much success, according to Zimmerman. “I think between everyone on the team, everyone knew each other, or knew of each other because we all played in the local NPL… we all got along very well on and off the field.” She also credits the leadership of her good friend Angie Beard, the captain of the team. “I think her leadership is second to none and made an impact on us throughout the season. And I think from the coaches, that leadership from them also trickled down,” Zimmerman said. “I think they’re two of the better coaches I’ve had in my career, so playing under them was really special, too.”
This team effort was on full display in the W-League Finals against Sydney FC. Both sides had plenty of scoring opportunities, with some chances rattling off the crossbar while others required brilliant saves and goal-line clearances. The Victory had nice build-up play throughout the game, but somehow kept coming up short of finding the back of the net.
After 90 minutes, the match remained scoreless. Deep into extra-time, Melbourne still was attacking and putting the pressure on, believing that they could finally find the decisive goal in the match. With a penalty shootout looming in the 120th minute, Zimmerman’s teammate Kyra Cooney-Cross stepped up to take a corner and miraculously launched it over the top of the keeper, curling the ball past the goal line to put Melbourne on top. It was an incredible goal and a fitting way to secure the championship.
As this season wraps up, Zimmerman can envision herself playing in Australia for years to come. “I could definitely see myself staying in Australia, again it’s a great place to play and live,” she said. “I hope to get overseas one more time, but ultimately, as far as soccer goes, Melbourne is my home and that’s my home ground, so I’ll probably stay here a couple more years and see where I end up.”
Zimmerman will look to gain more accolades throughout her esteemed career in the coming years, continuing a trend that has made her one of the most successful PC athletes around.