Emerson’s women's soccer team celebrated on Wednesday night a characteristic that players agreed personified their team and led to the college’s first Eastern College Athletic Conference championship win: grit.
As the men's basketball team battled for playoff spot against conference foe Massachusetts Institute of Technology, glowing silver rings with a yellow Emerson “E” featured at the center were dispensed to head coach David Suvak and his Lions squad during a halftime ceremony.
The word grit was engraved on each of the rings. Suvak said the team used that saying both literally and as an metaphor to describe the style they hoped to bring on the field.
“For me, grit has to do with a blue-collar way of playing the game and a strong work ethic,” Suvak said. “The players embraced it, and every match they wrote grit on the inside of their wrists with a Sharpie.”
A significant turnout, boosted by the key men's basketball matchup, numbered over 100 in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym. Players and coaches received their bling from athletic director Patricia Nicol one-by-one, each donning assorted Emerson athletics gear.
The ceremony, held just over three months after the Lions hoisted the ECAC trophy in mid-November, brought an oversized smile to the face of senior captain Tayllar Righini. Righini said the thrill of the championship hasn’t worn off since November.
“I still feel like I’m not over it, so I’m glad that the celebration is continuing,” Righini, a senior communication sciences and disorders major, said.
Suvak said he applied for a spot in the ECAC tournament in September, hoping to guarantee extra action even if they failed to qualify for New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference playoffs. The tournament is designed to host teams who fall short of their NCAA postseason, regardless of their specific conference.
The team's self-proclaimed grittiness was on display in the championship showdown with the University of New England. With her club down 2-0 after the first half, freshman Jess Frost scored two goals within five minutes to push the game to extra time, and eventually, penalty kicks.
Righini's winning goal in PKs secured the seventh-seeded Lions’ victory over the fourth-seeded Nor’easters in the season finale. Emerson previously upset Endicott College and Elms College, the second and third seeds respectively, to reach the final round. Righini said going out on a high note in her final year was an added bonus.
“I’ve had a lot of memories here in athletics; I’ve never had a championship, ever, in my life,” Righini said. “It was really special to finish my collegiate and athletic career with a championship.”
After reeling off six straight wins prior to the start conference play, the team finished with a 3-6-1 record in their NEWMAC contests. Suvak said competition like the team saw in the ECAC tournament boosts Emerson’s ability to compete in the future.
“Having this team learn to compete in the postseason against quality, non-conference teams is an important step for us in a lot of different ways,” Suvak said. “I feel good about the direction that we’re in as a team. I feel good that we’ve prepared a mentality and the players are ready to really compete.”