Following a forced 18-month hiatus from competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the women’s soccer team returned to the pitch this semester, much to the thrill of the players, coaches and fans alike.
Members of the team were excited to return to a competitive environment that encourages them to work together. This collaboration extends into how they incorporate precautions against COVID-19 into their team dynamic as they head back onto the pitch.
“As a team, from the beginning, we’ve taken on the responsibility that it’s not an individual responsibility to manage your COVID safety, it’s the whole program,” Samaya Bernardo ’24 said. “We’re all being safe and taking all these precautions.”
To prepare for the return to competition, the team participated in its typical summer training program, combining physical exercises with the creation and furthering of social relationships between team members.
“We did our regular summer training from [Head Coach of Strength and Conditioning Neil Willey]: lifting three times a week, speed and conditioning 2-3 times a week and people played soccer however they could. [Some people] played in summer leagues, clubs, and pickup games,” Captain Aine Lawlor ’21 wrote in an email to the Orient. “We also put time into team bonding and investing in individual relationships, particularly across class years, and team culture.”
Lawlor said she and her teammates are simply grateful for the opportunity to play the sport they love and spend time together in person again.
“It was a long two years of training to finally get here, and we are not taking it for granted at all,” Lawlor wrote. “Practice everyday, competitive games, time together—all of those things are what bring us joy and why we play this sport.”
Lawlor emphasized her team’s ability to be optimistic and resilient in the face of difficult losses and setbacks.
“I am really proud of this team for how hard we’ve worked in this first part of the season and how we’ve persevered through a lot of challenging times,” she wrote. “We had some big wins and frustrating losses.”
Despite the team’s intermittent struggles, it has found success in time for its championship season.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position to be competing for a home playoff game and an NCAA [tournament] bid, which is exciting,” Lawlor wrote.
In fact, the team defeated New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rival Williams College last weekend by a thrilling score of 2-1 despite suffering a difficult loss to Trinity College just 24 hours beforehand.
“It was a hard and long weekend, and we still managed to execute [the win against Williams] on Sunday which makes me so proud and happy to be on this team,” Lawlor wrote.
Overall, morale is high as the team approaches championship season.
“I have a lot of confidence in this team and what we are capable of,” Lawlor wrote. “We are playing well, and we know that we can win when we show up and play 90 minutes at our best. We hope to do well in the NESCAC playoffs and are shooting for an NCAA bid.”
Lawlor also encouraged students to support the team for the final part of its regular season.
“Come to our last three regular season games,” Lawlor wrote. “They’re all at home and we would love to have some support and cheering!”
Lucas Dufalla contributed to this report.