photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Sean Casey
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — As summer concludes and falls rolls around, one thing that students at St. Bonaventure University can usually rely on is watching Bonnies athletics.
Women’s soccer, one of Bona’s fall sports that has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, has been unable to play its usual schedule.
However, the team has still been working and practicing following the university’s safety protocols because when spring rolls around, they want to be ready for the possibility of games.
Head coach Steve Brdarski discussed what his team has been doing over the past several weeks since student-athletes returned to campus.
“I just wanted to have the team back on the field again,” said Brdarski, whose team just missed the Atlantic 10 tournament in 2019 after finishing with a 7-10-1 record.
In a normal year, the team is usually able to meet and get back onto the field in the spring and build chemistry, both on and off the pitch, but that was taken away from them this year due to COVID-19.
One point that Brdarski made clear was that normal spring semesters not just about getting better at soccer, but also getting chemistry off the field as team.
He said that in the spring, what he enjoys so much is the banter and team bonding that the team is able to have. In his words, it was, “The only thing that I was thinking about.”
Although the team is practicing, it is not under normal circumstances.
“We are split into two different groups, and go on different sides of the field,” said Alex Thompson, a senior defender/midfielder. “We social distance during practice with no contact or scrimmaging.”
Thompson added that the team usually works on foot skills and passing patterns.
“It is definitely not normal practice, but I think we are going to get into that within the next coming weeks,” she said.
Brdarski had high praise for Thompson’s work ethic and leadership, saying that in 23 years of coaching, he has had “very few” players that compete like she does.
“She drives practices in a way, where she kicks everybody, she doesn’t care who you are,” Brdarski said. “If her grandmother was on the field, she would be kicking her.”
Appreciating the praise, Thompson laughingly said, “Not my grandma.”
Brdarski said that he has been proud of the way his team has found ways to compete with one another despite the special circumstances. He mentioned that the team has a six-week window on how to run the program, progressing more each week.
“We have been really impressed with them because they want the opportunity to kick each other and they want the opportunity to just play,” Brdarski said. “But we, as a coaching staff, are super proud of our girls because they are doing everything we ask.”
With no one on this team, or the entire country, used to practicing amid a global pandemic, you can imagine how it could be difficult to stay focused and engaged.
Thompson, one of two seniors on the team, has been a leader throughout the entire process.
“The main thing that me and Dareion (Marrison, a fellow senior) have tried to do is just make the freshmen as comfortable as possible, and also try to keep everyone motivated,” Thompson said.
She said that they have been sending the team inspirational quotes every day to keep spirits high.
With all the bizarre things going on right now, Thompson talked about the little things that have been strange.
“Being here in the fall, I haven’t missed a class yet, which is crazy because I am usually missing classes for games, and I haven’t traveled once so it is very different,” she said.
Brdarski made sure to clarify Thompson’s statement, saying, “Let’s just be clear about what she said there. She usually misses class for games, not because she is not waking up.”
Going forward, Brdarski is confident in his team’s ability to respond to the adversity surrounding this season.
““Some of the challenges we face in practice is our girls are used to working hard and used to competing,” he said. “So, I think what has been interesting for us as coaches is having to recreate those pictures.”