Senior Day Could Be Magical for Blumberg, Hanold, Stoecklin
Oct. 18, 2012
CHICAGO - They sat in the Wish Field press box Thursday afternoon, the last remnants of a magical season in DePaul women's soccer history.
As Kelly Blumberg, Ren Stoecklin and Claire Hanold looked ahead to Friday's 3 p.m. CT Senior Day match with BIG EAST Conference rival Notre Dame, the thought of their final home game rekindled feelings and memories from the fall of 2009.
They were impressionable freshmen on DePaul's "Turnaround Team" that earned the program's first winning season in six years.
It was the first time DePaul (8-8-2, 3-5-1 BIG EAST) women's soccer had ever defeated a nationally ranked team with a 1-0 upset of No. 11 Missouri.
It was the first time DePaul women's soccer had ever been ranked in a national poll when Soccer America listed the Blue Demons at No. 20.
It was the first time a DePaul women's soccer player was honored as BIG EAST Conference Offensive Player of the Week when Tara Strickland received that accolade.
It was the first win over Northwestern in program history. Claire Hanold became the first female goalkeeper at DePaul to record nine shutouts in a season.
Concluding a memorable run, the Turnaround Team qualified for its first BIG EAST Championship.
"Our biggest achievement was making a difference at DePaul, especially recruiting-wise," Blumberg said. "Turning DePaul into a winning program is what we came here to do. That's what we expected of ourselves.
"We came to the BIG EAST and made history for DePaul. We helped the women's soccer program get to a new level."
Hanold cherished the opportunity to convince the non-believers that the Blue Demons were for real.
"We were a big underdog in every single game our freshman season," Hanold said. "It seemed like every time out, we had not beaten this team or that team before.
"With every win, it was like we were here to make a statement."
It was a statement that was forcefully reaffirmed a year later.
"I remember playing our first home game in the BIG EAST Championship my sophomore year and beating Pittsburgh 1-0 on Michelle Scandora's penalty kick," Blumberg said. "The band was here and there were so many fans supporting us.
"There were athletes from every team at DePaul in the stands. Coach Doug Bruno stood on the roof of the Athletic Center waving this huge Blue Demon flag the whole game on a cold and windy day.
"We were making history at DePaul."
They would like to extend their final season, and a win or a tie against the potent Fighting Irish would clinch a berth in the BIG EAST Championship.
There are other scenarios in which they could qualify for the postseason, but for now they are solely focused on Friday's match.
"Everyone on the team has a feeling of being so close-knit," Hanold said. "It really feels like a family. You don't care who you sit next to for dinner."
Stoecklin nodded her head in agreement.
"We have a smaller group this season and a smaller senior class," Stoecklin said. "There were nine seniors last year and not everyone was happy with their roles on the team. We have a different tone this year, and the seniors made a conscious effort to play our roles well.
"Nina Kodros and I play the same position. I can hear her cheering for me from the bench and telling me to keep playing well. That doesn't usually happen when you're competing for playing time."
Blumberg made it unanimous.
"All the players are really invested in the team," she said. "We don't care if we're starting or not. Our bench is one of the best I've ever experienced. I can hear them screaming when I'm on the field."
Hanold, Stoecklin and Blumberg have been named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team every year they've been at DePaul. Hanold will graduate in June as the school's all-time leader in career goals against average and second all-time in career shutouts.
Blumberg knows what she wants as a farewell gift on Senior Day.
"What would be special is beating Notre Dame for the first time in our last game on Wish Field."