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UConn Women’s Soccer Seniors’ Impact Stretches Beyond the Field

The Huskies bid farewell to their seniors tonight against Temple.

2017 UConn Huskies women’s soccer senior class.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Four years is full of ups and downs. From the highs of four conference championships to the lows of a sub-.500 senior season and a few heartbreaking losses, the UConn women’s soccer senior class has seen both sides.

There was a time throughout their respective careers that all five started and impacted games with their play. There were other points where they were relegated to the bench for one reason or another.

As important as their contributions on the field were, the latter is where they will leave the biggest mark on the program.

“The way that they conduct themselves is most important for the younger players to see — especially if you don’t play — how you react,” UConn head coach Len Tsantiris said. “The younger kids see that and it makes a big statement.”

It’s never to easy to say goodbye to a senior class. But such is life in college athletics.

“They made an impact and we’re going to miss those kids. They’re a good group of kids. Everyone brings something,” Tsantiris said. “I think that’s the uniqueness of kids passing by. Everybody makes a statement, an impact and helps someone else, helps a younger player. We learn from them and that’s how it is.”

The five seniors below will play their final home game at Morrone Stadium tonight at 7 p.m.

No. 22 Danielle Gottwik - New Port Richey, FL

The sole member of the class from outside the state of Connecticut, Gottwik grew up in Florida, not far from USF. Despite some interest from the Bulls, she wanted to get away. With that, she left her home state and came north to UConn.

“It was definitely a change of pace,” Gottwik said on her move. “I’d lived in Florida my whole life so I thought it was cool that I got a chance to come to a new part of the country and experience soccer here.”

However, going that far away from home is no easy task and Gottwik needed to learn how to be independent quickly.

“When I first came I was so immature,” she said. “I’ve definitely grown up (over the four years).”

As a freshman, Gottwik made an instant impact with six goals and four assists in 16 starts. She was named to the AAC All-Rookie Team and earned a handful of Rookie of the Week honors.

With both USF and UCF in the conference, Gottwik was able to play in her home state four times in four years: Twice during the regular season (2015 and 2017) and twice in the conference tournament (2014 and 2017).

While her family visit, there’s nothing like going home.

“My freshman year, we weren’t expected to do well in the conference tournament and we came out and won it,” she said. “Since we were at USF, my family got to come out and it was just an awesome experience.”

While the Huskies have struggled for much of the season, the silver lining for Gottwik is she gets to make one more trip home, as either USF or UCF will host the final conference tournament of her career.

“When we go there, all my family comes out,” she said. “It’s really cool to get down there and play in front of them.”

No. 33 Sabrina Toole - Westport, CT

When Sabrina Toole walks out onto the field during senior night festivities, it will be the ceremonial ending to a career that saw her start over 60 games and play 5,000+ minutes. As a captain, Tsantiris praised her tenacity.

“Sabrina’s a leader and she’s a fighter,” he said. “She’ll go through a wall to get the ball. That’s who she is.”

However, her best trait is arguably her resiliency, something she showed early in her career. After starting the first 15 games of her freshman season, things came crashing down on her in a matter of seconds.

“I lost [the starting job] against Cincinnati because I made a horrible two plays in a row and Tori [Patterson] came in and did an amazing job,” she said. “I was upset, obviously but I went to practice thinking I can learn from this.”

Instead of sulking, Toole simply put her head down and went back to work to get back on the field.

“I would talk to Tori after every practice see if she could help me get better with things,” she said. “The coaches also let me play midfield in practice so I just did my best to learn different positions.”

The move paid off as Toole eventually regained her starting job, this time at center defensive mid. It was a spot she held for the next three seasons and was a big part of the Huskies’ postseason success in 2015 and 2016.

It was never an easy path for Toole at UConn. She had to fight for everything she got but in the end it all paid off and there’s nowhere she would’ve rather spent her four years.

“I definitely don’t regret anything.”

No. 25 Courtney Hofer - Farmington, CT

Even though Courtney Hofer spent just one season at UConn, the mark she’ll leave on her teammates is indelible. Ask anyone in the program about Hofer and they’ll all describe her the same way: Leader.

“Courtney is a leader,” Tsantiris said. She’s definitely vocal and organized. It’s good to have her.”

As important as she’s been as a leader, it would be remiss not to mention how vital she’s been to the Huskies in net as well.

After missing over half the season with a head injury, Hofer returned against Cincinnati and gave a much-needed boost to a scuffling Huskies squad, recording 30 saves in eight games with one shutout.

Hofer played her first three years at TCU but knew she was ready to leave after last season.

“Once you ask for your release, you’re done,” she said. “I definitely wanted to play this last year and be closer to home and it just happened that UConn was the perfect fit.”

While her playing career is coming to a close, Hofer is far from being done with soccer. After graduating, she plans to go into coaching and feels that her experience at both TCU and UConn will help her.

“I’ve gotten to see how two programs are run and what things have been successful in some places but not others,” she said. “I think going forward a I can take what I what I think worked best from each program and use that to my advantage and hopefully become a better coach because of that.”

Even though Hofer will spend just three semesters at UConn, it’s been more than she could’ve ever imagine. There’s no one memory that sticks out. Instead, it’s the small moments that mean the most to her.

“I think it’s the time I spent in the apartment with the other seniors. For example, every Tuesday is Taco Tuesday and we all eat together,” she said. “It’s just little things like that that have been important to me that I didn’t necessarily have before.”

No. 27 Tanya Altrui - Branford, CT

“Tanya’s a good kid,” Tsantiris said. “She helps when she’s there by leading by example. She just works so hard.”

Hard work has been a common theme throughout Altrui’s career.

“Coming in as a freshman I didn’t play a lot,” she said. “I worked my way up to junior year where I got a tournament award and a lot of playing time.”

That mentality translates off the field and into the classroom. As a nursing major, Altrui has to dedicate more time than a typical student athlete to class and clinicals, meaning she’s had to miss most practices and road trips this season.

“That was my sacrifice but I like the way it turned out,” she said. “I was able to both: School and soccer. One year I focused on soccer and this year was more school.”

If her junior year was in fact her last hurrah on the soccer field, she went off on a high note. During the American Conference Tournament, she was an integral part to helping the Huskies win the championship and was named to the All-Tournament team.

“I never expected to get that award, it was a complete surprise for me,” she said. “It was the culmination of everything — how I hard I worked in training, practice, lifting, conditioning — it all came together to that point.”

No. 20 Faith McCarthy - Unionville, CT

As a redshirt senior, Faith McCarthy is the longest tenured member of the UConn women’s soccer team. She came to Storrs in the same class as Rachel Hill and had quite the start to her career.

“My first collegiate touch was an assist so I’ll definitely keep that,” she said.

It wasn’t just any assist. It was an assist on Hill’s first career goal for the Huskies. McCarthy was so excited that she gave Hill a celebratory tackle that Randy Edsall would be proud of.

“There was a lot of ecstasy in tackling Rachel. I don’t think I hurt her, I hope I didn’t,” she laughed. “It’s something that I hold dear in my heart that I gave THE Rachel Hill her first goal.”

Although she hasn’t played as much as she might’ve hoped throughout her career, McCarthy feels there’s plenty she can take away from her time at Morrone Stadium.

“It’s tough, we’ve been through a lot,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself, about people and a lot about the game.”

As the team grandma, McCarthy uses her five years of experience to mentor the program’s future stars.

“I’ve tried to teach them what it means to be a leader. I think that’s huge,” she said. “I really do think they look up to me on and off the field, so I just try to lead by example and teach them in the moment what it means to be a leader.”