Just the second women’s soccer team to be inducted into the Keene State Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame, the 1983 Owls squad got the ball rolling for a program that was destined to make its mark at the regional and national levels. “I’m absolutely thrilled for them,” said then-coach Dave Lombardo of the team’s induction. “They were really pioneers back then in women’s soccer.”

Two years after earning varsity status, the 1983 Keene State soccer team, which posted a 12-2-2 record, defied the odds by beating some of the top teams in the country and earning a berth to the NCAA tournament. With divisions less defined in those days, the Owls took on all comers, including elite Ivy League teams like Brown and Harvard universities. “They were just a blue-collar, hard-working team that had a ‘bigger they are, the harder they fall’ mentality,” said Lombardo, who was named the 1983 Coach of the Year by the New England Women’s Intercollegiate Soccer Association. “They weren’t afraid of anybody.”

Opening their season with consecutive shutouts over Brown (1-0), UNH (3-0), and Holy Cross (10-0), the Owls later prepared for a mid-season game against Harvard, a pivotal contest that helped put KSC on the soccer map. “It was a great game and really one of the most impressive wins I’ve ever been a part of as a coach,” said Lombardo about KSC’s 3-1 victory over the Crimson. “Harvard was an elite team and had some of the best players in the country. And to beat them as handily as we did – that really was the signature game that got us into the NCAA tournament that year.”

The win over Harvard helped put the Owls in the tournament picture. “When you’re not a big, mainstream school, things don’t always bounce your way,” said Lombardo, now coaching at James Madison University in Virginia. “The women’s soccer coach from Harvard at the time was on the NCAA committee, and spoke in favor of the Owls, saying ‘they’re one of the best teams that we’ve seen all year long and deserve to be in the tournament.’”