Fordham Women’s Club Soccer Heads South for Nationals

Written by Emma Diebold

In case you haven’t heard, both of Fordham’s club soccer teams are currently en route to Foley, Alabama, for this year’s NIRSA Soccer National Tournament. While this is huge to have Fordham represented so heavily in a nationwide competition, this trip holds a special significance for the women’s team. This year marks the first time in history that Fordham University Women’s Club Soccer (FUWCS) has won Regionals on their path to nationals - marking a promising chance for their time in Alabama.

And they’re ready to continue making history.

After an undefeated season with 41 goals scored and only 2 goals conceded, FUWCS Captains Lena DeYoung and Brittany Kouroupas led the team to the Region 1 tournament in Delaware. This year, FUWCS was named Region 1 co-champions,earning them a bid to participate in the national tournament.

Throughout the past eight seasons since its founding in 2010, the team has attracted a great deal of talent and become a regional powerhouse - reigning as Metro NY-NJ Division Champions since 2014. FUWCS is entirely self-funded, meaning that the team has been tirelessly raising money for tournament expenses through everything from Krispy Kreme deliveries, jungle juice parties, and Chipotle Fundraisers. They’ve also been collecting donations through their GoFundMe page (which is still open!).

While the team’s national appearance is the first of its kind, the team shares that it was far from a surprise. According to the players, this season was especially promising from the start due to a newfound sense of intensity, connection, and coaching dynamic.

Junior Jena Pelinkovic agrees, accrediting the confidence to a major “culture change.”  “The team is more intense and tight-knit this season which has made us so successful. The friendships between girls of different grades grew, and our captains were welcoming to the freshmen [which] allowed them to shine.”

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“I wound up finding my best friends on this team, and I think a lot of girls ahead of us and younger than us would say the same,” echoed Onufer.

Captain Brittany Kouroupas firmly believes that her team’s strong connection will translate to success in Alabama.

“From the first day of practice, Lena and I knew this team had such incredible potential,” says Kouroupas. “[We] knew nationals was in our reach this season. There was a certain feeling in the air and everyone was super hyped up to win it all, and that’s exactly what we did.”

Her fellow Captain Lena DeYoung emphasized FUWCS’s commitment to positivity: “Our positive attitude and determination are some of the biggest factors that have helped us be so successful, even in the face of difficult circumstances or high pressure situations.”

FUWCS Seniors (L-R): Brittany Kouroupas, Fiona Shea, Bergen Onufer, Natasha Sauerborn

Senior Natasha Sauerborn is no stranger to these difficult circumstances. She recalls her four years of long rides to tournaments and practices in the rain that came to shape the team. Sauerborn is one of eight seniors on FUWCS (including Rival Editor in Chief Fiona Shea (!!!)). For her graduating class, Sauerborn says that “having this opportunity to go to nationals during [their] last season is incredibly special.”

Almost every player I interviewed made a point to emphasize the tenacity and motivation of the underclassmen, especially this year’s freshman class. Senior Fiona Shea ‘19 expressed excitement for what’s to come in the next years for FUWCS:

“It’s a great feeling to know that when we’ve graduated the program is in such good hands and is going to continue growing. Having such a successful program that is very competitive but fun at the same time is only going to attract more talent to join the team.”

Lauren Regan with past teammates Brittany Kouroupas and Fiona Shea.

One unique element that FUWCS had this season was a new coaching staff under Lauren Regan ’18, FUWCS alumna and former captain, and Brad Eckerson, a current Fordham PCS student. Having been coached by fellow students - often “senior boys” - since their start, Regan and Eckerson make for an entirely different coaching dynamic. And the girls have especially appreciated having a fellow FUWCS player steering the ship.

“Lauren is a great advocate for us because she was in our place just a year ago,” says senior Bergen Onufer, “Having her and Brad as coaches has really boosted our confidence in our team.”

As a former captain during the 2017-2018 season, Regan has the unique advantage as a coach who has played alongside a majority of her players. Kouroupas thinks that her drive to continue this legacy was instrumental to FUWCS’ success.

“Lauren really wanted to make nationals happen while she was a student,” said Kouroupas, “She has such faith in us to carry on the groundwork that she started.”  

As far as Regan’s perspective of her new position on the sidelines goes? “It was a huge transition being on the other side of the game, but ultimately I think this is one of the best squads we’ve ever had.”

Coming into the tournament without letting up a single goal in regionals and an undefeated record, Regan explains that Fordham will be coming into the tournament “as a really high seed.” However, Regan is confident that the girls are “going to be able to make a name for Fordham” during their time down south. “Four years ago, we participated in the NIRSA tournament’s open division,” says Regan, “but, this year, we get to prove ourselves in the Championship Division.”

The tournament does not separate teams based on school or program size, so it is a testament to Fordham’s talent that they will be playing against huge schools with a much larger pool of students. While in Alabama, FUWCS will be guaranteed 3 games during “Pool Play” before continuing into elimination rounds. FUWCS will be playing the University of Illinois and NC State in the Pool Play round of the Tournament.

Keep up with all the action by following @fuwcs and @fordhamclubsoccer on Instagram for tournament updates. And, most of all, don’t forget to contribute to the women’s team and men’s team GoFundMes! Help your fellow Rams meet their fundraising goals so they can score them on the field with ease.

Current, CampusEmma Carey