Staff Writer, David Schrack
Mason men’s and women’s soccer programs have had successful kick-offs this year, with two players taking home awards for their performances. The Atlantic 10 Conference named women’s central defender Abby Downey Player of the Week and men’s center forward Stephen Durbin Rookie of the Week.
Downey’s award, announced August 31, came off the heels of her game-winning goal in double over time in the women’s match against University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on August 28.
“We definitely played a great first half that game,” Downey said. “The second half we came out a little unprepared and UMBC had a lot of energy that we just weren’t ready for, so we kind of struggled a little bit.”
Downey, a sophomore from Leesburg, Va., said it was the beginning of the second half when UMBC scored two goals, leaving Mason behind by one point. UMBC’s comeback “flipped a switch” for the Patriots, causing forward Erin Mitchell to score a goal that evened the match at 2-2 and drove it into overtime. After a scoreless overtime drew the match into double overtime, Downey scored the winning goal in the 106th minute off a corner kick from midfielder Kaila Williams.
Downey believes her player of the week award is the result of a “huge team effort” that included Mitchell’s goal, Williams’ assistance and a combined push from the entire team.
“I wouldn’t have been able to get the honor without our team fighting to the end and scoring in the last two seconds of regulation play to be able to score in overtime,” Downey said.
Stephen Durbin took home the Rookie of the Week award in the Atlantic 10’s first round of weekly honors.
“To be honest, it means a lot but it still means I have room to improve,” Durbin said.
Durbin won Rookie of the Week because of his performance across two games the weekend before the awards were announced. Mason played against Howard University on August 28 and against American University on August 30.
“The first match I came on as a sub. I just wanted to do my best and I ended up getting two assists in that game,” said Durbin. “I felt really good about that match and we ended up winning 5 to 1.”
Two days later, Durbin played the entirety of the match against American and scored the Patriots’ lone goal in the 78th minute, though the Patriots ultimately fell to American 1 to 3.
“I feel like I could have done more because we ended up losing,” Durbin explained. “Even though I scored a goal I felt like I could’ve done more for the team.”
Durbin, a freshman from Burke, Va., played soccer for Lake Braddock Secondary School before joining Mason’s soccer program.
When comparing collegiate level soccer to high school level, Durbin recognized that “[Collegiate level soccer] has been a lot more intense, a lot more physical, a lot faster. It’s been more demanding physically and mentally and in every aspect of the game.”
Since the reception of their awards, the men’s team suffered a 2-0 loss against Albany on September 5, while the women’s team defeated Appalachian State 1-0 on September 6.
The women’s team will host Illinois State on a doubleheader with the men’s team, who will host Fairleigh Dickinson, on September 11.