For months, freshman Amanda Caldarelli sat at home over winter break unsure when she would get to suit up for her first collegiate soccer game. After a cancelled fall season, Caldarelli and her teammates knew that their only chance of playing this year would come in a truncated, unprecedented spring form.
“Coming in, I think the entire athletics department didn’t really know what to expect,” said sophomore Samantha Sturno. “We weren’t really updated, and I know other teams weren’t really updated either.”
It was frustrating for the players to have to wait so long to get a decision on their season. After months of thought, the college, in agreement with the MAAC, informed the team’s players and coaches that they would indeed be playing throughout the spring semester.
“We knew it was going to be pretty rough,” said Sturno. “We’re going to have to do things that maybe we don’t want to do.” Sacrifices were going to have to be made by each individual in order for the season to play all the way out.
Those anticipated sacrifices, mixed with the uncertainty of factors outside of the team’s control, made for an anxiety-filled start to the year, especially for the freshmen. “We didn’t really know most of the girls last semester,” said Caldarelli. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
If all were to go to plan, the team would play six conference games in the spring of 2021, starting in early March against Quinnipiac, with the last game taking place during the first week of April against rival Siena.
In order to play, the team would have to continue to test negative for COVID-19. The players were tested three times a week and put under strict health and safety guidelines that restricted them from socializing with anyone outside of the team. The Marist women’s soccer team essentially had to become a bubble.
“In a way, it has made us closer as a team,” Sturno said of having to bubble. “But at the same time, I know that we’re all very mentally tired.”
It can be difficult for the players to remember what they are working for and stay motivated as they stay within their pods. For the seniors, like Kathryn Samarro, spending their last semester of college without the friends they have grown to love outside of the team, is a newly added mental pressure to the life of a college athlete.
“It’s helpful having a wider bubble in the team,” said Samarro. “But there are definitely some tough days being in the house with the same people.”
It was inevitable to Samarro that she and her teammates would get sick of each other, given that she had already grown sick of her own family over the course of quarantining at home. It is hard to see the same faces day in and day out.
“The mental side of it is what is most important during this time period,” said head coach Brittany Kolmel. “Where in other years we’ve relied on our physical abilities.”
The girls have had to handle the new challenges of being a student-athlete while at the same time getting to know a new coach, or two. Hired in June 2020, Brittany Kolmel took over the reins of the program during a difficult time. She has a wealth of experience both as a player and a coach. Kolmel has played across both Women’s Professional Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League and spent time as a coach at Quickstrike FC, where she oversaw the development of over 400 athletes.
The girls, however, have not been able to feel the full effect of the new hire. Early in 2021, Kolmel gave birth to her second child and has since been on maternity leave. In her place, Kolmel’s husband Jesse serves as a volunteer interim head coach. When Samarro first heard the news that Kolmel’s husband would be stepping in for her, she was skeptical about how things would work, but her fears were quickly calmed.
“My husband has played at the highest level,” said Kolmel. She felt that the balance of the entire coaching staff’s experience helped make up for her absence.
“I think he’s done the best job possible in his situation,” said Samarro. “And he’s also offered Britt a way to stay connected to our team.”
The consensus among the girls was that Jesse serves as a serviceable liaison between Kolmel and the rest of her team and coaching staff. Even still, it is not easy to get to know the coach for whom you will be playing for the foreseeable future when she cannot be at practice every day. “Obviously, it’s a big bummer that Britt is not able to be here,” said Samarro.
The team often questions why they continue to adhere to the guidelines of their program, especially when the return on their investment can be difficult to see. On Wednesday, March 17, Marist College enacted a precautionary campus pause. In short, this meant that all practices, training, and games of Division I athletics would be postponed until the college could get a handle on the explosion of COVID-19 cases within its student body. Because of the pause, the team has had to postpone four of their six games this spring.
“How much longer can we go on? How much longer can we take this until we’re going to get what we’re doing this all for?” Sturno asked rhetorically. With the MAAC Championship scheduled to begin on April 9, and Marist still needing to play five more games, the chances of completing the season look small.
So much of the season is out of the team’s control. “We can do everything possible, but the world as it is right now changes day by day, even minute to minute,” said Kolmel as she burped her newborn son. The hardest part, to coach Kolmel, was that her team was never even certain that all the work they were doing would pay off in the end.
However dark the future may look for the Marist Women’s Soccer Team’s spring season, the girls simply just want all of their time and work to not be for nothing. “We’ve all been staying in our bubbles, and at this point, we just want to play,” said Sturno. “Even if these games don’t count, this is the last month for some seniors to play ever.”
On April 2, a week after this story had been reported, the team was given the news that their season had been cancelled. Due to the college’s inability to come back from the campus pause, the girls ran out of time to finish the remaining games on their schedule. The seniors will not be able to hold on to their collegiate soccer careers as their final season comes to a disappointing conclusion that rips them of any closure that could have been squeezed out of the remaining games.
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney and Nick Stanziale