In a season marked with success, one New Paltz athlete has brought in awards and broken records as if it were easy.
Third-year Goalkeeper Stephanie Vega’s fall 2011 season will be remembered as one of the most statistically strong for a New Paltz athlete. Aside from being the first New Paltz goalkeeper to win a SUNYAC Title, she recorded 12 shut-outs on the season, a program record.
With her success, Vega was named the SUNYAC Tournament MVP and the SUNYAC player of the week for Women’s soccer the week of Nov. 6.
“It still feels unreal,” Vega said. “I’ve just really wanted a SUNYAC championship and it still feels unreal that we got it.”
Vega, who has played all three years of her college career as a Hawk, said soccer has always been a huge part of her life. She began playing at the age of six and was recruited by Women’s Head Coach Colleen Bruley before coming to New Paltz in 2009 as a first-year.
“She was big and built like a goalkeeper,” said Bruley. “She also spoke with a lot of passion. I was excited to see what she could do for us.”
During the SUNYAC tournament, Vega held both opponents scoreless. During the semi-final game against No. 3 SUNY Fredonia, Vega faced no shots on goal. In the final game against No. 1 SUNY Cortland, Vega blocked five shots on goal over the course of the match. These performances garnered her the Tournament MVP title, which came as a surprise to the veteran goalkeeper.
“I thought at first that maybe I wasn’t getting anything, but when they called my name I was not expecting it to be me, honestly,” said Vega. “I feel like I have definitely improved this season and have come a long way but in no way, shape or form did I expect to be named MVP of the tournament.”
Vega was the starting goalkeeper for the Lady Hawks when she first came into the program in fall 2009. Though Bruley said she always knew Vega would become a successful player for the Hawks, it took some time to reach that point.
“It took Vega a little while to become the player she is today,” Bruley said. “She started in goal for us as a freshman but never had the leadership of another goalkeeper to challenge her. Her second year she was the only keeper and she struggled even more with this. Vega needs to be challenged in order to succeed.”
On Nov. 8 it was announced that Vega, along with third-year midfielders Beth Bowling and Emily Rokitowski, was named to the All-SUNYAC second team. Third-year forward Shelby Kondelka and fourth-year defender Shannon Cobb were named to the first team.
Vega attributes much of her success as a goalkeeper to Cobb.
“Cobb is a big part of my achievements because she’s my defender and the one who I’ve always looked to and asked her for advice,” Vega said.
While Vega has been the one who reaping many of the rewards women’s soccer has seen this season, she made it clear that she is not the only one who deserves the success and recognition.
“I’m the last line of defense, but we have such a strong back four and I feel like they don’t always get the recognition that they should receive,” said Vega. “They’re the ones who put themselves out before me. A lot of my accomplishments this season I owe to them.”
For Bruley, Vega has been a factor in the team’s success this year, and Vega’s strong play helped her teammates play better.
If you are confident in your keeper it changes the whole dynamics of your team,” Bruley said. “It allows the team to just play and not worry about that position. I am so proud of how far she has come and I know this has helped her grow as a person too. She is loved by the team and is always there for every one of them.”