A new team has officially begun play here in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The women’s soccer program at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, held its first-ever match Aug. 22 at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5. After a hard-fought effort, the Terriers fell 1-0 in overtime to Lafayette College from Easton, Pa.
The opening whistle signaled the start of the 21st NCAA Division I sports team at the school. Before the match, St. Francis athletic director Irma Garcia presented the honorary game ball to head coach Justine Lombardi for her efforts to prepare her team of 25 student-athletes for their inaugural season.
Lombardi was named head coach of the new program in August 2018. She had been an assistant coach at her alma mater Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., for six seasons before taking over the new Terriers program. While at Quinnipiac, she was a four-year starter and team captain for the Bobcats.
The coach spent the better part of the past year recruiting talent from all over the nation. Some of her players transferred from other collegiate women’s soccer teams, and yet the majority of team members are freshmen eager to establish themselves with the new program.
“The good thing with this group is that they’re young and they’re eager to learn,” Lombardi said after the Terriers’ first match. “They’re going to bounce back no problem. We knew we had a talented group of girls coming in, but we needed to figure out how this group would play and perform together.”
Lombardi said she was pleased with her team’s work ethic, physicality and attitude in the first contest. For the 10 players who made their college debuts, it will be an experience they will never forget.
“It was very exciting,” said sophomore defender Brianna Van Giesen. “Everything that has been building up since I was 10 years old finally came true. I love this team, and I love the coaching staff. It was definitely a lot of fun for it all to come together.
“Obviously, we wish we would have won, but I’m still really happy to be a part of this team and the first women’s soccer game ever.”
Van Giesen, a player from Santa Rosa, Calif., originally committed to play last season at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, but a torn ACL delayed the start of her college career. She was looking for a fresh start and is thrilled to join Lombardi and the Terriers in Brooklyn.
“The opportunities are almost endless,” she said. “Our first game is now out of the way, and I think we can do anything. A lot of these girls have a lot of heart and a lot of want to do well and play for each other. I think that’s going to take us really far. We’re going to have fun and win some games.”
The opening match is already serving as a building block for the young St. Francis squad. Just because this is the team’s first season doesn’t mean it will use that as an excuse to accept losing. It will look to improve upon its consistency and stick to the game plan from the very start.
“They didn’t play like a group of young, inexperienced freshmen, and it’s good to know that the majority of these girls will be here for four years,” Lombardi said. “We’re expecting big things from them.”
Each step of the way, the St. Francis College athletics community has been supportive of its newest program. Regardless of how this first season winds up, the Terriers women’s soccer players already know they are part of something special.
“It’s a one-in-a-million kind of feeling,” Van Giesen said. “It’s amazing to say that I’m part of the first women’s soccer team ever. Without this team and without this coaching staff, there wouldn’t be a program in 20 years, so it’s cool to say that we were the start.”
Day by day, the Terriers will continue to find their rhythm as they progress through their challenging Northeast Conference schedule. No matter what happens though, 2019 will always be remembered as the season that started it all for St. Francis women’s soccer.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.