On the bus ride to the first game against Montclair State, women’s club soccer president and starting goalkeeper Victoria Enright was nervous. The team had not been together for long, and they were about to play their first game in the NIRSA Region 1 New York Southern Division league.
“I remember looking at everyone and thinking, we are really about to play, and I don’t know how this is going to go,” Enright said.
The team defeated Montclair State 1-0, and it ultimately proved that the club team was worthy of playing in the league and of a budget to fund the club. The win was a result of a long process of becoming a club team.
Enright, a junior, arrived at Marist during her freshman year and viewed how men had every club sport while the women did not have as many opportunities. When testing the waters on how to pursue creating a team, Enright was told that the process is difficult and may not be worth trying. Enright took on this challenge and got a group of girls together that she had played against in high school that wanted to continue playing soccer.
“It was one of those things that we wanted to do but didn’t know if we would push through and actually do it,” Enright said.
“Victoria and I are from the same area, and coming into school, we were interested in starting a team,” junior defender Haley Fasano said.
Amanda Lubben, Haley Fasano, Juliana Hannigan, and Jessica Cerrato, members of the executive board, helped Enright start the application process in the fall of 2021. They received directions from assistant athletic director Julie Byron on how to email the athletic director and Marist student government association. During the waiting process, Enright started an intramural league for solely girls’ soccer, and they had 50-60 girls show up. The strong turnout highlighted the need for a club team.
“That was a way to prove that there was an interest in the program and it was worth having at Marist,” Enright said.
“I’ve always had a love for soccer, and I knew this was something that was worth having,” Fasano said. “This was just another way to get involved.”
After a long wait, Enright and the board met with athletic director Tim Murray and received a response from SGA in March of this year. They had their final meeting with SGA in April and received the news that they were approved as a club. Two months later, they received news that they were approved for the league, thus becoming the first club women’s soccer team in school history.
“It was surreal because all of us captains wanted to see this through,” Enright said. “Being there and hearing the news was indescribable.”
“A beyond fantastic moment, it was a lot of work, and I give credit to Victoria for putting it together,” Fasano said. “It was a long strenuous process, so it was exciting to accomplish it.”
Following approval, Enright held tryouts, and she used her experience from coaching youth teams and as a goalkeeper specialist. Enright also has experience as an assistant varsity coach for Midland Park. After tryouts, Enright constructed a roster of 24 girls that were committed to the team.
“I had a good idea of what I was looking for in players in terms of skill set and being able to interact with other girls,” Enright said.
Enright has multiple responsibilities as she is the starting goalkeeper, head coach, and the president of the club. She has been forced to make tough decisions while also playing during games. The situation has led to an interesting dynamic within the team.
“I am wearing a lot of hats, and I have to make the hard decisions,” Enright said. “I’m sure a lot of the girls would say I’m crazy some of the time.”
“She wants the best for us, and she pushes us,” Fasano said. “She puts an emphasis on fitness and makes sure we are doing what we need to be successful.”
The team recently wrapped up their season with a 1-0 loss to Binghamton to bring their record to 2-3. They had wins over Montclair State and RPI, with both wins coming by one goal. The team’s stellar defense and timely goals led to a third-place finish in the league. Enright highlights that they were competitive in all of their games but acknowledges that they had trouble finishing in the final third.
“They exceeded my expectations this season, and it was a special experience,” Enright said. “I have a great group of girls, and that’s all I can really ask for.”
“We have so much fun, and we are always there for each other,” Fasano said. “Some of my favorite moments involve Olivia Paulinson’s goals because they are insane.”
The team had tremendous talent this season all over the field. On the right side, winger Courtney Lovin and defender Jenna Champagne were stellar and have developed a strong friendship. Center defensive midfielder Jessica Cerrato was excellent for the team, and her high IQ showed as she was a good facilitator and made timely defensive plays. The offense was led by Paulinson, who was the leading goal scorer with two goals. Center defenders Sarah Dill and Amanda Lee impressed Enright with their strong play on the backline.
“They were knockout good, and rarely did anything get past them,” Enright said. “They also provided from a leadership perspective in directing the midfield and attack.”
In the offseason, the team will continue practicing but will focus more on lifting. The team has lifting every Thursday night with the goal of injury prevention. Enright is giving the team off from practices until the next semester due to the upcoming holidays. When they return to practice, they will focus on maintaining ball skills, field IQ, and figuring out positions.
“In the spring, we will hold tryouts for new players and then hold weekly practices in the turf room in McCann,” Enright said.
Enright has visions for what the team needs to improve on heading into next season. She wants the team to improve offensively in the final third, but she is putting more focus on the team’s fitness. Enright is encouraging the girls to get into a running program and maintain their physical fitness.
“We need to work on our fitness, and it’s one of the key factors that could have made us better this past year,” Enright said.
Moving forward, Enright is proud of the club and is hopeful for the future. Enright encourages girls to pick up the game again. She stresses that the club is important to show that Marist offers more than the average school.
“Us going out there and spreading the word is super important,” Enright said.
“This club is important, and it makes Marist looks good,” Fasano said. “Fighting for the sport is important for us.”
Edited by Ricardo Martinez and Andrew Hard
Photo from Haley Fasano