Belles handle disappointment of canceled soccer season
Greg McKenna | Friday, May 21, 2021
In August of 2020, head coach Jesse Urquhart said that while his team was obviously disappointed about the postponement of their fall season, he was excited about the prospect of using the fall as an extended offseason to prepare for a spring campaign. So when the Belles found out Saint Mary’s would postpone fall sports entirely, even though the MIAA would resume play, Urquhart said it “certainly wasn’t easy” for his players.
Urquhart was not allowed to take part in any athletic-related activities either, but he said his student-athletes organized training themselves to prepare for this coming fall.
“And we saw not only some great leadership from our upperclasswomen, but we also had a number of freshmen who took it upon themselves to step up and take the opportunity to lead, to help inspire and to motivate the team to get together and be together on the field and continue to train and develop,” he said.
Both of the Belles’ seniors, defenders Megan Saunders and Kelsey Matyi, will be moving on after graduation. Saunders was accepted into Duke’s physical therapy graduate program, and Matyi, an elementary education major, is currently considering a number of teaching offers.
Urquhart said Saunders, a three-year captain who started all but one of Saint Mary’s games since her arrival, is a fearless competitor.
“She plays with that reckless abandon that coaches love and teammates love and that makes parents and athletic trainers cringe,” he said.
Matyi played nine games her freshman year before a recurring foot injury kept her off the field during her sophomore and junior years. According to Urquhart, doctors said the injury would never fully heal, but Matyi was primed to return for her senior campaign anyway.
“She said ‘the hell with it,’” Urquhart said. “And she found a way to train through the pain. And that’s an understatement for what she was going through.”
Urquhart said his “heart breaks” that the season was taken from Matyi, but he said that her selflessness allowed her to have just as big of an impact on the program as Saunders.
“She routinely put on a brave face for her teammates — often neglecting her own feelings — to help her teammates,” he said.
The season-opener in the fall will be the first time all the Belles will have donned a Saint Mary’s uniform in at least a year-and-a-half. Urquhart said he knows his players will be incredibly hungry to take the field, so it will be his job to manage their excitement.
“We want them to hit the ground running,” he said. “And we have to make sure that we do it in a way that is healthy and that allows them to acclimate to the college game quickly. But it’s a good problem to have, for sure.”