Women’s Soccer Treats Postponed Season as Opportunity to Grow


The Fordham women’s soccer team will look to build off of last year’s Atlantic 10 tournament appearance. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Like many other programs across the country, Fordham Women’s Soccer has been adversely affected by the COVID-19pandemic. No games, modified practices and a season pushed to the spring have left the Rams in a tough spot at a time in which they would usually be playing games. 

But the team is not using this time to feel sorry for itself. Quite the opposite is true.

“The leadership group did an excellent job of staying connected outside of what we were asking from a coaching staff perspective,” head coach Jessica Clinton said. Clinton credited the sophomores with sending motivational quotes, the juniors with keeping different groups on the team connected, including incoming freshmen, and the seniors for helping organize the team. 

“I don’t think we would be as optimistic now, talking about coaching and being back on the field with this group, if we didn’t feel like they were as connected or if they didn’t do the work,” Clinton says.

Players and coaches for Fordham Women’s Soccer have been impressed with both the leadership on the team and the responsibility individual players have shown in using this time as an opportunity to grow as a squad. That isn’t just the returning players, either; this year’s Fordham women’s soccer team includes a large freshman class of eight newcomers. Milan Bornstein, a senior midfielder who started 17 of 20 games for the Rams last season, echoed that sentiment.

“People have been great, coming in, being leaders and showing us what they can do,” she said. 

Junior Marissa Stanco, whose game-winning goal in the final regular-season game of 2019 sent the Rams to the Atlantic 10 tournament, knew the team would carry the right mindset into these unprecedented times.

“Honestly, it was no surprise to me that we were ready to pick up right where we left off,” she said. “I think the seniors these past couple of weeks have been really great and helping out the younger players a lot, as much as they need to, to get them ready. But it was honestly no surprise to me that we wanted to pick up right where we left off and really get right back into the swing of things.”

Junior centerback Claudia Cuicani, who started every game last year, agreed.

“I’m honestly so impressed with our team, especially the upperclassmen, because now it’s us working together,” she said. “Because when we couldn’t have coaches’ practices, we had captains’ practice, and everyone just kind of stepped up and took a leadership role in leading the team. So I think everyone did a really good job taking that place.”

The team is currently in its third full week of being together and back at practice. Initially, the team had spent eight hours per week at practice, far below what the team would be doing under normal circumstances. However, as of this week, the team is able to practice for up to 20 hours per week, albeit in a modified format due to COVID-19 guidelines. Coaches are also allowed to oversee the practices. 

Senior midfielder Saige Bingman, who scored two goals last season, said things are starting to feel a little bit more like usual, even if there are still no games.

“It definitely feels more normal now, and it’s good to just be out there and have a normal schedule with soccer and lift and the meetings,” she said. “Despite the situation, I think we’re making the most of it.”

This development, which will allow for more practice time and more time for players to spend together, is making players like junior midfielder Jenna Devine elated.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I actually can’t even put it into words. I was talking to one of my coaches last week, and I was like, ‘I sound like I’m 12 when I say this, but soccer makes me so happy,’ and to be back out with the girls is just a feeling that we lost for a while, so to have it back is just so amazing, so awesome.”

“It was a lonely quarantine, lonely summer, working out alone is definitely way tougher,” Bornstein said. “So having your teammates with you to work out with and just being able to play games that you can play with over two people is so exciting.”

In addition to staying ready for the season whenever it starts, members of the team are also taking up other important initiatives. Devine leads a subgroup of female athletes for Fordham Connect, which seeks to help student-athletes at Fordham with different unique experiences they face. The president of the group is junior goalkeeper Maggie Grossman, who said that Fordham Connect’s efforts have so far been a success.

A lot of athletes have been participating and people have expressed that it has been really beneficial for them,” she said. “It has given us a way to touch base with athletes in other sports on how they are doing during this trying time, which is everything we wanted.” She also said that these times allowed members on the team to create relationships with each other that they may not have previously, especially in the team’s efforts to address social injustices off the field.

In addition to the complicated task of preparing for a spring season with no start date in sight — the Atlantic 10 has not yet offered a specific timeline for the start of the spring season — the women’s soccer team is also bringing in two new assistant coaches. Eleri Earnshaw and Kathy Prescott joined the program after having spent time at LIU and Penn, respectively. Earnshaw joined the team in the winter, while Prescott was brought in over the summer.

“If you have an opportunity to meet with them or talk with them, from my perspective, I didn’t really have to try hard to bring them into the fold, just based off of their personalities,” Clinton said. “But I think also our team made it really easy. They’re a really open, honest, inclusive group.”

Whenever the season gets started, the team is excited to see what it can accomplish. Out of the 16 players who started at least one game last year, 11 will return this coming season. The team’s schedule is shifted, but its priorities haven’t changed.

“We took our time to be sad, be disappointed about everything and then we realized, ‘okay, we need to figure out how we can continue to get better,’” junior defender Kendall Dandridge said. “And it might be in different methods, but we still can come out of this stronger than when we came into it.”

Stanco also cited her excitement over having a big freshman class that could help the team in reserve roles.

“We’re always going to need fresh legs, whether it’s the 90th minute or the start of the second half, going into overtime, whatever it is,” she said. “I’m super excited for that. I think that will help us a lot. I think this team could do really big things.”

“All we want is to play,” Bingman says. “So whatever that looks like, if it’s a partial season or a full one, I think we’ve been working so hard since the spring thinking that we’d have a season this fall, so I feel like everyone just feels ready to get out there and play. The work that we’ve been putting in during practice is obviously going to get us there, and everyone just wants to play. We’re so ready.”