Oct. 16, 2013
CHICAGO - A recent trip to Georgetown in our Nation's Capital encapsulated what is so special about DePaul's senior class and how it has inspired the women's soccer team to one of the most successful seasons in program history.
Asked to describe her favorite memory of Blue Demon soccer, Natasa Radosavljevic did not dwell on a game-winning goal or twice qualifying for the BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals.
Instead, the senior forward mentioned an incident involving injured classmate Kimmy Denne that seemed to have a profound effect on the entire team.
"It was the night before we played at Georgetown and the team was having dinner at California Pizza Kitchen," Radosavljevic said." The next thing you know, Kimmy shows up out of nowhere. To see her pay for all her travel expenses just to be with the team is one of the most inspirational moments.
"The looks on all of our teammates' faces was priceless. Knowing how badly Kimmy wanted to be there for her teammates made me want to fight that much harder for the team."
Senior midfielder Rebekah Roller's most memorable moment also took place in late September in Washington, D.C.
"My favorite memory also happened at Georgetown, but it had nothing to do with soccer," Roller said. "My brother (Christopher) is a medic in the army and has been gone for most of my soccer career at DePaul. Him and my dad (Norman) flew out to Washington, D.C. and surprised me.
"During warm-ups, I looked up in the stands and saw them and started to cry. I was so excited they were there.
"But the thing that got me the most was Elise Wyatt was warming up next to me, and she was even tearing up because she was so happy for me.
"That shows just how tight this team is---they cared that my brother and my dad were there."
Those intangibles may have factored into DePaul's 1-1 double-overtime tie against a powerful program that was ranked No. 8 in the country on that day.
"We were all so excited to play at Georgetown last month, and I've never seen our team so fired up to take the field," said senior forward Erin Pekovitch. "I had butterflies in my stomach. Our coach (Erin Chastain) gave an awesome speech in the beginning. We played for each other and picked each other up when we were tired and couldn't run anymore."
Denne has endured all kinds of adversity including a season-ending knee injury after playing just two games of her final season. Through it all, this young lady with the heart of a lion chooses to focus on a teammate as her lasting memory.
"I'll never forget last season when we went to Dayton and won 2-1," Denne said. "MaryKate Cicinelli, who had not been playing much, scored the winning goal in overtime. She was ready when her chance came, and I was so proud of her.
"She was such an example for our team. You may not play 90 minutes every game---not every player can. MK had that one opportunity to prove herself. She had one opportunity to do something for the team---and she fully capitalized on it. She has kept getting better and better ever since and is such a big contributor to the team."
It's a scrappy and talented 9-2-2 team that will face Butler (9-4-2, 2-3-0) at 3 p.m. Thursday in a BIG EAST Conference match at Wish Field. The Blue Demons are 3-1-1 in the BIG EAST standings and tied for second with Georgetown.
On Sunday, DePaul seniors Radosavljevic, Denne, Roller, Kylie Nordness, Ashleigh Goddard and Pekovictch will be honored in a pre-game Senior Day ceremony at Wish Field before taking the pitch to face BIG EAST leader No. 21 Marquette (12-3-0, 5-0-0).
"Before the season started, we all had the same hopes and dreams that this would be the best season DePaul ever had," said Goddard, a midfielder who came to Lincoln Park four years ago from London, England without knowing a single person in a foreign country. "Everyone is looking good. Defensively, we are doing brilliantly. Attacking-wise, we are winning games."
Nordness was an All-BIG EAST Third Team defender last season and is the heart and soul of a revamped back line that has led the BIG EAST in fewest goals allowed.
"At first, I was a little tentative about this season," Nordness said. "We had to figure out who was going to be playing in the back line, and there weren't any defenders in our incoming recruiting class. The first couple of games, we had to get used to each other. You can't click right away.
"We learned about each other's strengths and how each other played. From then on, we kept growing and growing. It turns out we couldn't have a better group of girls for the back line and for our goalkeeper.
"We communicate all the time and tell each other where to go and who to pick up. We all want to do so well---we don't want anyone to score on us or push us around. That's why we do so well together."
Pekovitch picked the perfect time to peak. The forward from Stevenson High School scored her first collegiate goal in last Saturday's 2-1 overtime victory at Creighton in a critical BIG EAST match.
"My senior season has been awesome," Pekovitch said. "I couldn't have picked a better time to start and contribute. Having to step up, fill someone else's shoes and get it done on the field has brought us together and made us a stronger team."
Sacrificing for the team and having your teammate's back is a common thread running through these Blue Demons.
"Making a sacrifice is a big thing with this team," said Roller, who played defender her first two seasons before returning to her preferred position heading up the midfield. "Brianna Ryce is a good example playing center back this season---a position she has never played before. When we step on the field every day, we are playing for each other.
"This team has the best chemistry we've had in my four years."
Denne nodded her head.
"That's the beauty of team sports, that you have this constant circle of trust and support," Denne said. "If you fall down, there are 10 other people on the field giving you a hand to pick you back up.
"After I got injured, I've tried to be the best teammate I can be every day. I try to make a lot of noise on the bench and stay positive. I'm there for my teammates when times are a little tough. The teammates and coaches that support you are the people I definitely will never forget."
Goddard will never forget leaving home and crossing the ocean four years ago.
"I had never been to America, and the only thing I knew about it was from what I saw on TV and watching movies," Goddard said. "It was really difficult for my parents to let me go so far away. When I got here, I stayed with Kelsey Hoinkes. She really welcomed me, and I couldn't have stayed with a better person.
"From the very first day, everyone in our freshman class was a little apprehensive coming into college soccer. Everyone on the team reached out to me, and I appreciated that more than anyone would know. I think we help each other more than we even realize.
"Having these players beside me means a lot. This senior class has been through so much."
Goddard recalled her first goal setting off a golden celebration in a 2-1 overtime win over Syracuse at Wish Field. As she fell on the ground inside the net at the south end , overjoyed teammates piled on top of her.
She smiled at the memory of Janina Locascio's heartfelt Senior Day speech and watching Morgan Celaya record a program-best time in the beep test that Nordness equaled this year.
"It'll be a little sad and also exciting to play our last regular-season home game at Wish Field," Goddard said. "But at the same time, I'm not worried at all. The way we're playing, I know there will be more home games at Wish Field.
"Our senior class was the first to play in the remodeled Cacciatore Stadium, and it was amazing to play here.
"At the rate we're going, I'm expecting the team to go farther. We're going to keep on going---all the way to the NCAA tournament."