Women’s Soccer Makes SMCM Sport History

Sofia Esparaza had three shots on goal in the game against York (Photos by Brendan O’Hara).
Sofia Esparaza had three shots on goal in the game against York (Photos by Brendan O’Hara).

With eleven hours and counting before they leave for Lynchburg to make program history, the ladies of St Mary’s soccer team are huddled around the Daily Grind for a Thursday night TNA coffeehouse, cheering for teammate Katie Klotz as she belts out an a capella rendition of Alicia Key’s “No One.”

Aside from the setting, it’s hard to distinguish the girl’s shouts of encouragement from the ones heard on their field at a typical game—but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  It’s that kind of continuous support–on and off the field–that the team cites for their extremely successful season which included a 12-2-3 record, a CAC championship, and a first-ever bid to the NCAA tournament.  “Things are clicking this year,” articulates senior captain Marie Oben.

And they certainly are—on top of a championship title, the Seahawks were recognized with seven All-CAC picks, matching a program record dating back to 1992.  Lauren Carrier was honored as CAC Player-of-the-Year, and managed to lead the conference with an average of 2.42 points per game and 1.08 goals per game, despite being forced to end her season early with a devastating knee-injury. Carrier’s injury on
October 15th was just another testament to the teams grit and togetherness.

Junior midfielder Sophie Esparaza describes; “the loss of Lauren really freaked us out initially but players stepped up, proved themselves, and we proved as a team that we could come back from that and not let it affect our chemistry on and off the field.”

And there’s no doubt in any of the girls minds that Carrier was deserving of her CAC honor; “even after missing those games, she [Carrier] still leads the conference in goals and assists,” says
Oben, “I’m glad they got that right.”

Joining Carrier on the all CAC first team was Oben, Esparaza, and senior defender Katie Klotz.  Junior defender Karisa Carroll, freshman forward Bridget McGovern and senior midfielder Taylor Cervenka all earned spots on the second team.  Excited as they are
about the honors, Oben and others don’t see this season as one about individual skills—“we’re all in this together” she says.

And that’s the attitude they carried with them into the tournament last weekend.  “Our team chemistry is fantastic” says CAC Coach-of-the-
Year Brianna Weaver; “Our goal throughout the year has been playing every game to the best of our ability, and that’s exactly what we hope to do on Saturday against Emory.”

Senior captain Taylor Cervenka describes how this year, the team and coach Weaver took a whole new approach to the season.  “Last year, we learned a lot about what to do differently and better,” she said.  It wouldn’t be surprising for a team whose been at it full-force since mid-August to be physically andmentally exhausted by this point, but Esparza says that Weaver makes sure that the girls maintain their composure and excitement going into the tournament.

“At this point in the semester and season people usually get stressed and burnt out. Bri’s done a great job of making it fun for us this past week while still working us hard. She always gives us days off and if people feel the need to take more time off to be completely healed and 100 percent for games she has no problem with that.”

Not only does Weaver coach a team of supportive and talented individuals, but she also makes a point to reach out to the greater St. Mary’s community.  “Bri strives for community outreach and wants to represent St. Mary’s outside of school.”

Junior midfielder Lea Gonzalez blocks the ball. She proved to be an essential player during the game.
Junior midfielder Lea Gonzalez blocks the ball. She proved to be an essential player during the game.

The team invited a few local girls, including St. Mary’s English Professor Ben Click’s daughters, to join them in a practice to participate in shooting drills, and the girls even came to some games.  Junior Brianne Carroll thinks that this outreach benefits the team itself as well as the community.  She says, “Seeing girls nine years old keeps us grounded and reminds you of when you were little, how you loved soccer so much, and how you still love it.”

And while the teams historic season ended in the first round of NCAA play with a 3-0 loss to Emory, all of this will serve them well.  Coach Weaver knows that the great success of her team this year will certainly benefit the program in the coming years.  “We had the fortunate opportunity to follow in the steps of lacrosse and basketball.

This will attract a higher level of soccer player to bring the [soccer] program up even more, and with it, the rest as well.”  This season marks the beginning of a very bright future for St. Mary’s Soccer, and this is all owed to Coach Weaver and her players.

Esparza says, “It feels great to be apart of the first team in the school’s history to win a CAC championship and I think it can only get better from here. The younger players have a lot to look forward to and the older ones are happy to have been a part of such a successful team.”

To end their historic season, the team lost to Emory University 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA Division III soccer tournament.

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