On the brink of opening a brand new era of Saint Joseph’s College women’s soccer, it was likely hard for senior team captain Haley DaGraca to not look backward. She was in her 75th career game as a Monk, had accomplished almost everything a student-athlete can, from four straight All-Conference awards to Player of the Year honors (twice), and was now on the verge of capturing the one thing that neither she or her program had ever achieved: a Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Time was running out, however, against the top-seeded Lasers of Lasell College on their home field. The Monks hadn’t been able to get anything going offensively, and their season was on the line against the eight-time defending conference champions in a scoreless game.
To up the ante, DaGraca and the women’s soccer team were not the only Monks on a championship hunt that day. Earlier in the day, Saint Joseph’s field hockey captured their third consecutive conference title on the turf at the SJC Athletics Complex by defeating the Lasell field hockey team by a 4-0 score, news that surely would’ve made its way to the ears of the women’s soccer team over a hundred miles away as they battled at Lasell College.
Immediately after their title win, the field hockey team would give way to the nationally-ranked Saint Joseph’s men’s soccer team for their title bout with Johnson & Wales, with the Monks being the odds-on favorite to capture their own championship three-peat.
Haley DaGraca wasn’t about to let her team return to Standish as runners-up on a campus full of champions.
With 59:14 showing on the clock, DaGraca streaked into the offensive zone, took a beautiful pass from classmate Colleen Sheehan, and headed it in to give the Monks a 1-0 lead.
It was her 69th career goal (program record), her 20th game winner (program record), her 154th point (program record), and the only missing piece in her trophy case all on the same play. The Monks had the program’s first-ever conference title.
And that was all it took. DaGraca’s tally proved to be the game-winner, and the Monks men’s team defeated JWU 1-0 back in Standish, and Saint Joseph’s Athletics punched three tickets to the NCAA Tournament in a single day.
Of course, one goal is not all it took. All three teams devoted hours, days, weeks, and months, in preparation for their moment. Coach Lewis, Coach Dubois, and Coach Harris all worked tirelessly to orchestrate a season and playoff game plan that worked. The players on the field made the plays they needed to in order to be crowned champions.
There aren’t many days like November 4, 2018. A college or university athletics program is fortunate to see one or two conference championships a year in most cases. Very few, if any, will ever see three on the same day. On that autumn day, it was truly, in every sense of the word, A Great Day to Be a Monk.