As the clock ticked off its final seconds in San Antonio, I thought back to the hundreds of soccer matches I’ve watched our daughter Madeline play over the past 17 years. But my most vivid memory that afternoon had nothing to do with soccer. There was Maddy, not yet 4 years old, kneeling on the sidewalk at our home in Wilmington, Del., gripping a crescent wrench to remove the training wheels from her first bicycle. She was not just ready to ride. She was determined to ride.
I’m certain each of the members of the William Smith soccer team has also had a “training wheels” moment somewhere along the way. And because they were all so determined, we can all be so proud.
“We,” of course, includes their parents, who followed them as often and as far as we could. We arrived early to the hill overlooking Cozzens Field, and stayed late to tailgate in the lobby of Bristol Gymnasium, lingering to be with our daughters, and with each other. We programmed our GPS to Fredonia, Canton, Poughkeepsie and Rochester. Finally, filled with nervous anticipation, we descended on San Antonio and held our own against the hometown team’s much larger contingent. It’s a special bond we’ll always share.
“We” includes the siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, faculty and staff, and also the soccer alums and their families. Near or far, wherever they watched or listened, the sheer joy they felt when the game ended was a fitting reward for their loyal support. That passion is embodied by Amy and Jack Perry P’89, whose daughter Julie had starred on the 1988 National Championship team and is now a missionary in Chad. They drove from Colorado to Texas to be with their beloved coach, “AA,” and root for another generation of Herons. After the game, when we gathered at the team hotel for pizza. Amy and Jack, in their 25-year-old white hoodies with green lettering, reminded us of the abundantly rich community that is William Smith Soccer.
“We” also includes the citizens of Geneva. The image of the Geneva fire and police departments escorting the Onondaga Coach down Pulteney Street on Sunday evening is especially meaningful for my family and me. I was born and raised in Geneva, just a few blocks from campus. The Colleges have been a part of my extended family’s lives for generations. Now, as an HWS parent, I am blessed to be part of both communities. So as we celebrated in San Antonio, I thought of my fellow fans from the hill, the native sons and daughters as well as those who have come to call Geneva home, all of whom I knew were also reveling in the thrill of victory.
I share President Mark Gearan’s fondness for the “sense of place” that is so vital to a community. A national championship alone can’t create that sense. HWS and Geneva had it before our Herons headed for San Antonio. It’s just stronger since they returned.
— Jerry Buckley P’15
As the Director of William Smith Athletics, I take great pride in the fact that approximately 250 Heron student-athletes earn an average 3.4 grade point each semester. Additionally, our Heron teams engage in over 1,200 hours of community service while also achieving a high level of success in competition.
Since the early 1970s, we have enjoyed notable success. Our current 11 teams have received 141 invitations to NCAA or other postseason competition. We have won 46 conference championships. And, we now have won seven National Championships!
The highest measure of success in college athletics is demonstrated by winning a National Championship. It is a goal of most college athletes and coaches; however, in our athletic department our emphasis is on the process, not the outcome.
The 2013 William Smith soccer team, led by Aliceann Wilber, the winningest women’s soccer coach in NCAA Division III, made a commitment to the process. The coaching staff was committed to recruiting, teaching, preparing, mentoring and leading the 2013 team. From knowledge gained through our Peak Performance Plan leadership and life skills development program, the student-athletes understood the harmful effects of alcohol on their athletic performance and committed to being “dry” throughout the season. Many Heron teams make that same commitment.
At the Fall 2013 Peak Performance Plan kickoff, Dr. James Maas, a sleep and performance expert, encouraged our student-athletes to get “at least one more hour of sleep” and optimally 9.25 hours of sleep each night. Coaches were encouraged to halt or minimally reduce early morning practices. In a program rich with tradition, these are the little things that can make good teams great. The Heron soccer team committed to sleep schedules, fewer morning practices and pregame naps.
While the team began the season with a loss to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and gave up four goals in that opening weekend, the true sign of great leadership is displayed when adversity hits. With determined team leaders and a veteran coaching staff, the team finished with a clean sheet for the last 16 games of the season.
THANK YOU so much Heron soccer family and the HWS community! Your support was the wind beneath this Heron team. I am so proud of the strong history of success of William Smith Athletics. Success on and off the field. This team represented William Smith Athletics, HWS and the history and tradition of William Smith soccer with great pride. You all have played a part in the team holding the 2013 National Champions trophy high above their heads. From the bottom of my heart and from a team that played with heart, THANK YOU!
— Deb Steward, Athletic Director, William Smith College
The William Smith soccer team is THE BEST. That’s going to be true for a whole 12 months, count ’em, year! But the reality is that they are ALWAYS the best. And I have known that for a very long time.
In 1989 I was the sole faculty director of a group of over 40 HWS students on a spring term abroad in what was still the Soviet Union. One day the phone on my desk rang and a heavily accented young man’s voice said, “The medical students of Irkutsk State University challenge the American visitors to a game of soccer.” “Challenge accepted,” I replied. The next day they arrived in ambulances to take us all to the field. When they saw that several of Coach Wilber’s best were part of our team they balked. “We can’t play with girls.” “It won’t be fair.” “The girls will get hurt.” I did not need to say a word. The Hobart students said, laughing, “Well, you’ll have to catch them first.” And finally, “We play together or not at all.”
When the game began, it turned out that the William Smith students were among the best players on the field, and after a few minutes the Russian players started getting angry, and aggressive. Dealing with women their own age as equals was clearly difficult for them. They just really did not know how to do that. The game did not go amicably and in the end each side claimed victory.
What I learned then was that William Smith soccer players are strong and fast and skilled and work with the team. Even more important, they are fearless. What a wonderful set of skills for young women to cultivate. And I also learned that the excellence of William Smith athletes is positive for their Hobart friends. What I saw demonstrated on a muddy field in Siberia, of all places, is that the coordinate system is good for everyone.
So cheer for Coach Blue Eyes Wilber. Cheer for Athletic Directer Deb Steward. And cheer, most of all, for the 2013 National Champion William Smith Soccer Team!
— Susanne McNally, Dean, William Smith College
- Herons Win Soccer National Championship! (PDF)
- Herons win National Championship with 2-0 victory over Trinity
- The Long Road Back
- Defense Wins Championships
- Coaching a Championship Team
- The Most Enthusiastic Fan
- Bridging Athletics and Academics
- 1988-2013: A Generation Apart, United in Excellence
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