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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Women’s soccer graduates historic senior class

Senior Grace Bendon prepares to kick the ball out of the box in a game earlier in this season against Bucknell University. PHOTO: SJU ATHLETICS

The St. Joe’s women’s soccer team was eliminated from the Atlantic 10 tournament semifinals by Virginia Commonwealth University on Nov. 2, bringing one of the most successful seasons in program history to a close. The Hawks finished with a record of 14-5-2 which was good for the second most wins in a season in program history.

For the seven seniors who carried the Hawks to four straight A-10 tournament berths and three straight semifinal appearances, while simultaneously setting the record for games played as a group (83), the loss  marked an end to their storied careers on Hawk Hill.

“This senior class was awesome and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for the program,” Head Coach Jess Mannella said. “They came in here and they knew how to win and brought that winning mentality. It set an expectation for the program that winning was the new norm and they really turned it around in their four years here.”

During those four years, the senior class compiled a record of 56-20-7, including a 2016 regular season A-10 title.

“As a class, our goal was to really leave our mark on the program,” senior goalie Grace Bendon said. “To know that we’re leaving with such success I think is something to be proud of.”

The Hawks will certainly have a lot of talent and experience to replace, as four of the seven seniors were named to the A-10 All Conference team. They also graduate two players, defender Paige Bergman and midfielder Michaela Finneyfrock, that started all 83 of their games in crimson and grey.

Bergman is the program’s all-time leader in assists. They also graduate former A-10 Offensive Player of the Year forward Dakota Mills, who ranks second in program history in goals despite missing the majority of the 2017 season. Bendon, who anchored the defense, playing every minute for the Hawks and who is the program leader in wins, will also graduate in the spring.

“The seniors were great leaders and great players and they will be really difficult to replace,” Mannella said. “The younger girls have been able to watch them all year and how they approach the game. Now it’s time for them to step up and follow that example the seniors have left.”

Bendon said the senior class left a foundation for the younger players.

”We shouldn’t expect anything less than all the success we’ve been having because everyone on that team, freshman to senior, is a great soccer player,” Bendon said.

Both Bendon and Mannella emphasized how special the team was this year, not only in what they accomplished on the field, but their bond off of it.

“It was just a lot of fun, the team knew how to be silly and have fun, but when it was time to practice or play, they knew how to fight, work hard and be gritty,” Mannella said. “I’ll remember the fun times, whether it be a bus trip or a dinner or just hanging out before practice.”

Bendon also found the greatest significance in the simplest moments. When asked about her most impressionable memory, she didn’t choose a groundbreaking win or a record setting performance, but rather the moments they spent together in practice. The long hours training on Sweeney Field paid off in the form of a lasting bond off the field and a successful season on the field.

“I think the cohesiveness and the will to win and the love for each other translated to how well we did and the success we had as a whole,” Bendon said. “That’s really what I’ll remember most about St. Joe’s.”

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