CLICK HERE to read orginal article, written by Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Glenn Jordan
STANDISH — Last fall the men's soccer team at Saint Joseph's College made history by not allowing a goal in the regular season.
This fall, the Monks are again unbeaten through nine games and ranked 16th in the national NCAA Division III polls, though they actually trailed in one game before rallying to a 3-1 victory over Johnson & Wales.
A bigger surprise on campus, however, might be the success of the St. Joe's women's soccer team. For the first time in more than a decade, the Monks reeled off five straight victories to open the season.
"I think their mentality and their competitiveness has rubbed off on us a little bit," women's coach Jenelle Harris said of the men's team, "and hopefully their success rubs off on us as well."
Originally from Texas, Harris is in her sixth year as head coach after six years as an assistant at St. Joe's. This fall her staff welcomed its largest recruiting class, with nine of the 13 newcomers coming from within the state. The entire roster numbers 34 – 20 of whom played high school soccer in Maine.
"We have so much more depth so our level of (competition at) practices is higher," said senior captain Haley DaGraca, a forward from Saco who owns school career records for goals (55) and points (121) and has scored half of the team's 10 goals this season. "In my four years, they've just been getting higher and higher and I think that's translating into our games."
The women lost Saturday in a 3-2 home loss to Simmons College. They are 5-1 heading into Wednesday night's game against Norwich University in Vermont. After a near-.500 season in DaGraca's first year on campus, the Monks have gone 10-7-3 and 13-6-1, both times finishing fourth (of 12 schools) in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference.
This season began with a 1-0 victory against in-state rival University of New England, with DaGraca scoring in the 56th minute on a shot that caromed in off the crossbar. UNE had beaten St. Joe's five years in a row by a combined score of 21-4.
Posting a shutout in her collegiate debut was goalkeeper Adia Grogan, a 5-foot-9 freshman from Kennebunk who won the role vacated by the graduated Brooke Troup, who started in goal for most of her four years.
"Probably out of all the freshmen, (Grogan) is the one who has transitioned most easily," Harris said. "She's done a great job coming in and owning that role. She's a super competitive player."
St. Joe's won the next four games, all on the road, as Grogan chalked up three more shutouts and surrendered only one goal, in a 3-1 victory over Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts. She said the departure of a veteran keeper played no factor in her decision to enroll at St. Joe's.
"I liked the program and the school," Grogan said. "Even if I went to a school where there wasn't a goalkeeper leaving, I don't think it would have changed my competitiveness at all. You've got to work for your position and anybody can take anything from you at any time."
Jade Jordan, a junior captain and center midfielder, grew up in nearby Baldwin and competed for Sacopee Valley in high school soccer. Not only has she seen the St. Joe's program make the transition from grass to a new turf field encircled by a blue eight-lane track last fall, but the college also installed lights so games can be played in the evening.
"I've always loved night games," Jordan said. "It gets you more pumped up and there's more fans there."
Harris also makes a point to parents of potential recruits that midweek games at 6 or 7 o'clock instead of mid-afternoon – as was previously the case – translate to fewer missed classes.
To her players, Harris stresses four pillars of the program: accountability, competitive fire, commitment and family.
"In everything we do, we gently remind them," she said. "It's not just on the field for practice and games, it's in the classrooms, it's through service in the community. The coaches are here to make them better athletes but also better people in whatever they're going to do, whether it be grad school or their careers."
The best start in program history was 11-0 in 2007, a season that ended with a 16-2-3 record, runner-up finish in the GNAC and an ECAC quarterfinal loss in overtime to MIT. The Monks have never won the GNAC title. Lasell College of suburban Boston is the eight-time defending conference champion and the team that has bounced St. Joe's from the conference semifinals the past two seasons. They meet again Oct. 3 in Standish.
As for the men's team, which saw its 2017 campaign end in a penalty-kick shootout after 110 scoreless minutes against Tufts, the Monks host GNAC newcomer Colby-Sawyer at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"I think our programs are connected," said DaGraca, pointing out that Will Pike is an assistant for both teams at St. Joe's. "We're always at the all of the boys' games and they come to all of ours that are at home, so we're definitely support systems for each other."