Twenty-six girls gathered around televisions and smartphones – some crying, some laughing, and some holding hands out of anxiousness. No, they weren’t watching the newest episode of the Bachelor – they were watching the NCAA Selection Show. I would like to say for the story’s purpose that the “journey to the tourney” started that day, but truth be told it had started years ago.
We started playing soccer as little girls; we joined club teams, attended countless summer camps, and dedicated a large part of our youth to the game. Eventually we became part of the 2.8% of high school soccer players to have the opportunity to compete at the NCAA Division III level. Under the direction of Franco Bari and his coaching staff, the twenty-six players that showed up to pre-season became part of the most cohesive team that they had ever been a part of. The fact that this dynamic group had potential was no secret. The true secret lied in how the Saints would unlock this potential over the next fourteen weeks.
We said early goodbyes to our summers in order to come back to Canton, NY. For the readers’ sake, I will spare you the details of our months of technical and tactical preparation. I will go as far to say that we spent the next few months using a game to turn the team into a group of best friends. We were welcomed into the homes of players’ families for dinners, breakfasts, and even the world’s best slumber party. We began to spend our days together even when it was our day off. A bond had been created, a bond that cannot be broken.
All of our efforts had led up to this day, sitting around our electronic devices waiting to see if we would be making an appearance at the NCAA tournament. “St. Lawrence” flashed up on the screen and this became a day that the Saints would never forget. The next days were spent preparing for our new challenge. The Saints didn’t go back to the drawing board; it would be just like any other game. Except for the fact that the teams that we would face had been to the “big dance” before, while this was the Saints’ first appearance since 1989 – years before any of the current Saints were even born. The Saints may have lacked NCAA tournament experience. However, the team was able to find confidence in the fact that just a few days prior, St. Lawrence took William Smith, the 2013 NCAA National Champions, to overtime in the Liberty League Finals.
We loaded on to the bus and travelled through the mountains to Williams College. Excitement, nerves, and adrenaline – the list of feelings goes on and on. The day was here and the opportunity was there for the taking. Unfortunately, that day things did not fall the Saints’ way, but the team had nothing to hang their heads about. The Saints did not go down without a fight. This year the Saints had reached a new standard and set the bar higher for years to come. It’s always a great day to be a Saint.