(Published on BU Today)
At 10:30 on a recent late winter night, most students were huddled inside, but nearly two dozen women could be seen running sprints on Nickerson Field, the 20-degree temperature and 18 mph winds cut by laughter and heavy breathing. The mood was festive despite the frosty conditions, as members of the BU women’s soccer club (BUWCS) team prepared for last Sunday’s home opener against MIT.
“It’s just great to be able to play again after a long winter,” says Julia Tampellini (Questrom’18). “We’re excited about the year, and we think we can continue to improve. We’re all excited to just get out there and start playing already.”
Growing up in an athletic family, Tampellini has played soccer competitively since she was a child. When she arrived at BU, she wasn’t able to find a women’s club soccer team and voiced her frustration to a friend one day in the dining hall. Fortunately, a women’s club team player overheard the conversation.
“A girl who was on the team came up and told me there actually was one,” she recalls. She found out how to try out for the team the next year and made it.
The club was launched in 2009 by Rachel Chapman (CAS’11), who went on to coach the squad for its first eight seasons, stepping down last fall. The team gained official club status in 2015 and currently has 22 members. Tryouts, consisting of two rounds, are held every fall: the first round involves individual exercises with the ball, three-on-three games, and conditioning drills, the second is a full-field scrimmage with current players, allowing coaches and captains to see how well prospective players mesh with current players.
The club charges $15 per person for tryouts (to weed out those less interested in playing), with refunds given to anyone who makes the team. “We want people who are serious about trying out,” says leading goal scorer Oriana Durand (COM’17). “We expect that players confident in their abilities and very interested would have no problem paying, and players who aren’t as serious won’t waste their time. Sometimes people have different concepts of commitment, and this has helped us find players who are really serious.”
Competition to make the team is formidable. Approximately 60 women try out every fall, with 4 to 8 chosen. Fees run about $100 per person for the fall semester and $60 for the spring and cover the cost of transportation, referees, and equipment.
The team’s biggest breakthrough came two and a half years ago, when it became an official BU club sport. Durand says it was a turning point. Members went from having to use Uber to get to games and booking their own referees to having their own scheduled practice time on Nickerson Field and receiving financial support from the University. It also allowed them to begin competing in the Women’s Collegiate Club Soccer League National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association Region I. Since last spring, the team is 14-2-1, excluding playoffs, and last semester it advanced to regionals for the first time, coming in second in their division.
Club members have learned to expect the unexpected. “In the middle of the second half of our final game last year, at Holy Cross, the lights just went out,” says captain Erin Chang (ENG’17). “They had just scored to take a one-goal lead, and 10 seconds later the lights went off, and they called the game. It was so weird and annoying.”
Chang also recalls a scheduled game against UMass last year. “It was an early Saturday morning, and the refs just never came. It was really embarrassing, but we got some dads and someone’s boyfriend from the stands to referee, and thankfully they were all certified.”
And then there was a tumultuous game during their first season as an official club sport that turned out to be their hardest fought win. “We had a lot of trouble scheduling the game,” Chang says. “Boston College just kept trying to change it. It was supposed to be our first home game against them, and we eventually compromised and played there. After a lot of frustration, we were ready to go once it came to game time. Their fans were so rowdy, one person even got kicked out. We ended up scoring a goal in the last few minutes to win 2-1. When that final whistle sounded, it was the happiest moment of a lot of our lives.”
Players are optimistic as they prepare for this weekend’s two away games. They clinched their first game of the spring season with a 7-1 win over MIT March 19 at Nickerson Field. New head coach Maggie Crowe says she’s confident about this team’s ability.
“We have what it takes to be really, really competitive,” says Crowe. “If these girls made regionals last year, nationals should definitely be a goal in the future. The sky is the limit for this group.”