Senior spotlights: Women’s soccer seniors made history with balanced culture, united drive

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Photo: Arthur Mansavage

Senior Cali Bruce raises the women’s soccer team’s first-ever NEWMAC Championship cup.

By Leo Kagan, Sports Editor

Resilient, decorated, momentous, and victorious. This year, the Emerson women’s soccer team represented the purple and gold in a light it hadn’t shined before.

Boasting the conference’s Coaching Staff of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year, the program’s first All-American player, and the NEWMAC championship, the Lions were dominant all over the pitch. 

Though players hoped to extend their season a little longer after falling 2-1 to Westfield State in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament, they can hang their cleats on a truly historic season. 

Continuing a series of stories highlighting each fall sports team’s seniors, The Beacon conducted interviews with the players and coaching staff from the women’s soccer team to determine how the Lions’ seniors propelled them to a season like no other. 

Hannah Beck – Defender

This season was Beck’s fifth playing for the Lions, using her first year as a graduate student to make up for a year lost to COVID. She brought a positive attitude and hard work to every shift she spent in the backfield. 

Though she only scored one career goal, it was an important one—the game-winning goal in the team’s final regular season game against Springfield, securing the Lions’ third-place slot in the conference and a home playoff game. Sophomore midfielder Lauren Carlson said the team found joy and motivation in the goal, which spurred them through a successful playoff run. 

“Hannah Beck scored, the stars aligned, and we won the NEWMAC,” she said. 

Beck was particularly fond of a pair of socks decorated with rapper Pitbull’s face, wearing them at the Springfield game. Carlson said they became a lucky charm for the Lions. 

“She wore her Pitbull socks throughout the tournament,” she said. “[Hannah] claimed that we won because of Pitbull.”

Marie Bou Aziz – Midfielder 

Bou Aziz provided support in a tough area of the field and played a key role in the Lions’ midfield rotation. Though she capably chipped in on the offense—six career goals—first-year defender Presley King said her strength lies in her defense. 

“Marie [is] one of the best defenders,” she said. “She’s very strong—she can body people off the ball. Her physicality makes her stand out and her defending is amazing.”

Head Coach David Suvak said Bou Aziz served as a glue player, fighting injury and still showing up to work every day. 

“She’s been a good teammate and a solid player,” he said. “[She] helped us grow as a group—a little injury prone this year, but still an important member of the team.”

Cali Bruce – Midfielder

Bruce is a special player. Her trophy case—which features a NEWMAC championship, three First Team All-Conference selections, and now an All-American selection too—is evidence enough. Her statline—8 goals, 5 assists, 21 points in 56 career games—supports this, too. 

Bruce moved from defender to midfielder this season, changing her game to fit the needs of the team. She served as captain for two years, complementing her strong play with leadership. Carlson said her most impressive talent is her ability to motivate others to their highest potential. 

“I would usually go up against Cali in practice,” she said. “She challenged me to be the best possible version of myself. She’s also very difficult to mark because she’s skillful on the ball [and] she doesn’t back down from anything.”

King said Bruce’s leadership skills helped her adjust to life at Emerson. 

“When I first got there, she was having conversations with me, asking how I was adjusting, checking in and making me feel welcome,” King said. “She’s definitely a mentor for me.”

Bruce will be missed next year, both for her on-the-field skills and for her ability to foster team cohesion. 

“She led the team in a way that helped us play competitively but kept the players joined together,” Suvak said. “She did an excellent job of keeping the team tight.”

Ainslee MacQuarrie – Midfielder

MacQuarrie too, shifted positions for part of the season, moving from the midfield to outside forward briefly. Carlson said her brain and skillset applied themselves well to the new position. 

“She had some key moments, [some] amazing assists,” she said. “Midfield is a key passing position, but to take what she learned and apply it to outside forward isn’t easy.”

On top of her four career goals, Suvak praised MacQuarrie’s vision and ball-moving abilities as her most impactful skills. 

“She is very good at driving left to right and making splitting passes as she’s running across the top of the box,” he said. “She has no problems holding onto the ball under pressure. [She’s] more of a playmaker, an assist-giver.”

Carlson added that MacQuarrie’s positivity proved integral to staying focused and relaxed, on and off the field.

“She’s such a positive [person],” she said. “She’s very uplifting and a big part of the team culture. She keeps things positive and neutral on the field.”

Josephine Mazza – Defender 

Mazza, known as Jojo by her teammates, suffered an injury before the season started and spent the year on the bench. Her injury, Suvak said, rarely stopped her from taking an active role in team leadership. 

“It was important for me to have her be a part of this team,” he said. “She offered guidance and support to players on the sidelines, [and] has been willing to speak to the coaching staff to offer ideas and suggestions.”

King said despite never seeing her play, Mazza’s presence radiated from the sidelines. 

“You can tell when she was out there, she was a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “She can lead the team and she’s not even playing.”

Carlson added that Mazza displayed refreshing honesty, which motivated the squad. 

“She’s very real,” she said. “She will tell you if something’s not working but also she’s very aware of calling people out for good things. She’s not afraid to say it—she calls people out for how hard they work.”

Bellamy Suter – Defender

Suter showed her reliability from the backend over a four-year career, starting in 35 of the 50 games she played. She tallied just one career goal, but teammates admired her more for her defensive prowess—Carlson said she played especially well under pressure. 

“Somehow all of the chaos comes together for her,” she said. “[She’s] an amazing outside back —she just pulls it all together. She has a lot of fire, a lot of personality, and she brings it to the field.”

Suter also played an important role in cultivating a welcoming team environment. 

“She’s very important for our culture,” Carlson said. “She’s one of the first people I started talking to when I was a freshman, and she was really welcoming. I know historically, the team wasn’t always like that. Seniors [like her] helped us build that culture.”

King said Suter’s relaxed and friendly demeanor made it easy to feel comfortable, even as a first-year. 

“It’s easy to put the seniors on a pedestal—they’re older and really good at soccer—but she’s personable and real,” King said. “She talks to you like you’ve been her friend for years. “

Class of 2023 (and graduate student)

Very few graduating senior classes go out winning their last game. Though the current class dropped its first NCAA matchup, they went undefeated in the NEWMAC postseason— something no other iteration of the Emerson women’s soccer team can claim. 

While players and coaches remember the championship and other individual honors bestowed upon them, they also remember the culture fostered by the graduating class. Carlson said it was a unique challenge the seniors handled gracefully. 

“It’s easy when you have a group, to get angry at each other, to have cliques, to not get along,” she said. “But the seniors this year set the precedent—‘That’s not how this team is going to be.’ We would play teams that were better, but there was never a team that had more love for each other than us.”

King said she admired most their drive to succeed, which brought them all the way to a championship. 

“They were all hardworking, driven players,” she said. “Sometimes, groups of seniors can get a little checked out because they’re so close to graduating, but everybody put everything they had on the field. You could tell how big a part of their lives soccer was.”

That chapter is now closed for most of these seniors, though all are eligible to return next fall for a graduate year if they so choose. While they were Lions, though, they made history on a run like no other.