posted on: Thursday August 29, 2019
By Jack Belanger ’21
Last fall, the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Soccer Teams both made it to their respective Big East Tournaments. The men cruised in as the third seed while the women snuck in as the sixth seed. Unfortunately, both teams lost in the semifinals: men to second-seed Georgetown University and the women to Butler University, who was also the second-seed.
This year, both squads were predicted to finish third based on the Big East Coaches’ Poll. There will be a new face in net for the men as Colin Miller ’18RS, former Goalkeeper of the Year, graduated while Shelby Hogan ’20RS will once again return for the women.
Last season, the men started their season with a huge upset over No. 8 Southern Methodist University. The Friars pulled out the 2-1 win after playing two overtimes that ended in the 104th minute thanks to a game-winning goal by Alex DaCosta ’19. The Friars would go on to dominate their Big East schedule with a record of 6-2-1 that would be good enough for a tie for the second best record in the league.
Fast forward to this year, Austin Aviza ’20RS will be tasked with holding down the net for the Friars who return most of their core from the previous season. This will be Aviza’s first season at PC after transferring from the University of Connecticut in the spring. He began his college career at Syracuse University for two seasons before transferring to Connecticut in 2017. In 2018, he recorded a 1.03 Goals Against Average (GAA) while also achieving five shutouts.
With a strong defensive core returning, Head Coach Craig Stewart will switch the team’s formation from four guys on the back line to three, with the hope this will create more scoring opportunities for a team that has struggled to score. Ramzi Qawasmy ’22 will anchor the line after being named to the Big East All-Freshman Team last season.
With no true striker on the team, the Friars will have to take on a scoring by committee approach to find the back of the net. Last year, no Friars scored more than five goals and only three players scored three or more goals.
“The big key for us this year is finishing our opportunities in the offensive third of the field,” said student manager Graham Collopy ’21. “In our two scrimmages we have created multiple scoring chances, but haven’t always cashed in.”
Luckily, the team does return Tiago Mendonca ’19RS, last season’s top scorer, who was the only Friar named to the Preseason All-Big East Team this year. He will be tasked with leading the team on offense and improve on his five goals last season.
Georgetown and Creighton University are also expected to compete for the Big East title. The Hoyas and Blue Jays were predicted to finish first and second in the league respectively. Any win against Georgetown would be a boost for the Friars trying to make a bid for the NCAA Tournament. The Hoyas are currently ranked 13th in the United Soccer Coaches’ Poll.
The Friars will begin their season at home on Friday, August 30 against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
The women last year played a tough nonconference schedule that featured three Power-Five Conference schools. The Friars were nearly unbeatable at home, going 8-1-0.
This year, Head Coach Sam Lopes returns for his sixth season with the Friars. He has found incredible success at the College as he has gotten the team into the Big East Playoffs every year.
Hogan returns to Chapey Field for her third season with the Friars. Last season, she was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll five times. Her 0.77 GAA ranked third in the entire conference.
The team has already played two games in 2019, finding their record at 1-1-0 with a win over Connecticut in their season opener. Hogan has made a total of nine saves and allowed a goal in each game.
The offense will once again be strong as Hannah McNulty ’21 and Amber Birchwell ’21, the team’s top two goal scorers in 2018, return to the pitch hoping to bring the Friars to the championship. McNulty was named to the All-Big East Second Team after leading the Friars in goals and points.
There will also be a familiar face on the coaching staff this season. Former Friar Katie Day ’19 will join the staff as a graduate assistant. Day was named to the All-Big East Team twice during her career at PC.
Looking around the league, Georgetown and Butler will once again be poised to compete for the top of the standings.
The women are slated two teams ranked in the top 25 in the United Coaches Poll. Georgtown is once again ranked 13th and the University of Texas at Austin is placed at 24th.
With two solid cores set in place this fall, both soccer teams have the experience and talent to compete for the Big East Championship and bring a title back to Chapey Field.