Without question, Keene State College has had its share of great women's soccer teams and talented players over the years. But if you had to pick which team reached the highest level of accomplishment, it would be the 1989 team, hands down. By reaching the Championship game of Ihe Division II NCAA Tournament, the 1989 KSC women's soccer team set the standard by which Owl teams, both past and present, would be measured.
"I think there have been teams with more talent here," said Denise Lyons, an All-American player on the '89 team who has gone on to a successful coaching career with the Owls. "But no team could match it when it came to its ability to overachieve."
"In terms of team intensity, cohesiveness, and a desire to win, that team had it more than anyone else," added Bert Poirier, the team's first-year coach.
Although the team had an appearance in the Division II final four the previous year, the Owls didn't get the ball rolling until a few games into the season. After a wake-up call, a tough 1-0 loss to Plymouth State, KSC prepared to face national power Barry University. "Although we lost 1-0, I knew after that game that we could play with the best in Division II," Poirier said.
Poirier proved to be an accurate prognosticator. The Owls would go on a nine-game unbeaten streak that included eight shutouts. With a 3-2 victory over Division I Vermont (which Poirier called the best women's soccer game ever at Keene State), a nail-biting 1-1 tie against Dartmouth, and 2-0 shutout vs. regional foe Adelphi down the stretch, there was no denying the Owls a return trip to the tournament,
Keene State headed to Florida as decided heavy underdog to its first-round opponent Cal. State-Dominguez Hills. But the Owls were on a mission. For 74 minutes and 40 seconds the two teams battled in the scorching heat at Miami Shores. It was only appropriate that KSC's all-time assist leader Lyons would set up the Owls' top career scorer Philo Robinson for the biggest goal in the program's history. "I saw Philo at the far post," said Lyons, recalling the free-kick like it happened yesterday. "Once I kicked it, I knew it was going in,"
While Keene State would have nothing left in their tank the following day against Barry in the championship, the Owls didn't need a plane for their return trip to Keene, "They were still sky-high after the [Dominguez Hills] win," said Poirier, "I couldn't have asked for a better effort."
Although Lyons, Robinson, and Alison Foley would be selected to the All-Tournament team, Keene State's list of MVPs would include every player who stepped on the field that weekend. From first-year goalie Kara Dubois, sweeper Kirn Connolly, and defenders Heather Doucette and Fatty Daly to midfielders Karen Noonan, Lori Santos, Jul Gerrior and Abby Bartlett, and forwards Lisa Mordo and Jen Sattler, the Owls demonstrated why soccer is played with your feet, head, and heart.
The contributions of players Jackie Westort, Trisha Thompson, Julie Huggins, Janel Gerrior, Gyp Glassford, Kristi Mazzone, and Becky Badach, along with irreplaceable assistant coach Sue Reardon, gave KSC a winning formula." I think we had great team chemistry," said Foley. "Everyone got along,"
"We had a lot of fun, that was our main focus," added Doucette. "As we kept going we just kept rolling. When the championship came into sight, that became our mission."
Although the Owls would fall one game short of that mission, the 1989 Keene State women's soccer team will be remembered for not only getting to the championship game, but just as importantly, for how they got there.