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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Hard-working Nicolette Pasquarella has her eyes on the prize

Goalkeeper Nicolette Pasquarella launches a goal kick on Sept. 17 against Hofstra. Pasquarella has become one of the Coastal Athletic Association’s elite goalies. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

Ever since she was a little kid, the ball found its way to Stony Brook’s women’s soccer goalkeeper Nicolette Pasquarella, and it has never left her feet since.

The Long Island native has been an integral part of the Seawolves’ success ever since joining the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) and has built a reputation for being a stalwart in the box. Entering the 2023 CAA women’s soccer tournament, Pasquarella ranks third in the conference with 70 saves and fifth with a .787 save percentage. Over the last two years, she ranks third in the CAA with 161 saves, while saving 78.5% of the shots she has faced.

Her performance this year has been key in Stony Brook sneaking into the CAA playoffs as the sixth seed. When her team has needed her most, she has helped it earn points in the conference table. In the Seawolves’ regular season finale, she shut out the second-highest scoring offense in the CAA to help them earn a point in a scoreless draw, which wound up being the difference in them making the postseason.

However, Pasquarella has been making an impact and forming memories on the pitch for much longer than her first year as Stony Brook’s starting goalie. Just 30 minutes away from Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., she began her soccer journey.

“Sundays were always soccer and pasta — every Sunday,” Pasquarella said in an interview with The Statesman. “My dad grew up playing soccer and my nona played, as well. Soccer has always been what has brought us together as a family.”

To stay active, Pasquarella tried other things. She spent some time playing lacrosse, volleyball, basketball and was also a dancer, but nothing quite stuck with her like soccer did. She got into soccer right before starting elementary school and it has had her heart forever.

Pasquarella kicked off her youth career as a forward, chasing after the ball and looking to score. However, going for glory and finding the scoreboard was not really her passion or strength. When the starting goalkeeper for her club team missed practice due to illness, she was the only one to volunteer herself to the net.

That decision formed an unbreakable bond between her and goalkeeping.

“I hated running,” Pasquarella said. “I love soccer, but I wasn’t the best forward. When my teammate got sick, I wanted to give it a shot because what is the worst that could happen? Ever since, I loved it.”

She believes that her mentality is perfect for the position.

“Everyone says you have to be crazy and have a crazy mentality to be a goalkeeper, and I believe in that,” Pasquarella said.

When Pasquarella was promoted to academy play, she knew she wanted to do much more with soccer. After joining her first academy — Impact Sports Academy (ISA) — she knew she wanted to revolve her life around soccer and play professionally.

Growing up, she idolized goalkeepers on the biggest stage, including famed Italian men’s keeper Gianluigi Buffon and American women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo. She envisioned herself in their shoes, but she had much more growing to do before she could fit in their cleats.

In her first academy session for ISA, Pasquarella struggled to juggle the ball. While not a common skill for 11-year-old goalkeepers, the feeling of being outmatched bothered her. Every day for over six months, she trained with boys’ high school teams and men’s collegiate prep squads, turning her into one of the best jugglers in her academy.

For Pasquarella, seeing the fruits of her labor materialize taught her something much more valuable than just learning how to juggle.

“For me, it was like, ‘If I want this I can have it, but I have to work for it,’” Pasquarella said. “It was a big jump, but I adapted well to it.”

Pasquarella’s work ethic served her well throughout her teenage years. In her junior year at Connetquot High School, she participated in the Center of Excellence (COE) Program: a clinic run by former Manchester United Football Club (FC) defender John Curtis that develops young soccer players.

Curtis sent an email to Pasquarella in the middle of her math class, asking if she was interested in training with both Manchester City FC and Manchester United FC’s first team in England. She accepted the invitation and practiced alongside professionals who play for one of the most legendary teams in association football.

Not only did the COE Program help her improve fundamentally in net, but it also gave her a sense of what playing at the highest level was like.

“I went there and you’re walking next to players that you just watched in the World Cup,” Pasquarella said. “I’d lowkey fangirl a little bit, but I was just trying to keep my cool.”

That same year, her head coach at Connetquot finally gave Pasquarella a shot to start for the varsity girl’s soccer team after sitting behind an upperclassman during her first two years. She performed well and earned an All-Division selection in 2019.

Her senior season was delayed almost eight months by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not deter Pasquarella from dominating. She headlined New York’s class of high school goalkeepers by conceding just two goals and leading Connetquot to the second round of the Section XI playoffs.

Once the season finished, Pasquarella earned several honors. Most of them were commonplace or accolades she had already received, such as All-League and All-County. However, once her coach broke the news to her that she had won the 2020 New York State Goalkeeper of the Year award, one of her fondest memories was formed.

“When [my coach] announced it, my parents were in the back of the auditorium screaming,” Pasquarella said. “It was such a good experience and I think it was a good way to end my high school career. It really made me even more excited to start here at Stony Brook, too.”

When the time came for Pasquarella to decide her college destination, she was unable to envision herself anywhere but Stony Brook. While West Virginia University made her think long and hard with a scholarship offer, the prospect of remaining a hometown hero on Long Island was the deciding factor in her decision.

With the head coach Tobias Bischof and his staff deeply behind her, becoming a Seawolf seemed like the obvious choice.

“You have a bunch of girls here who just want to work, to win — whatever it costs,” Pasquarella said. “Jim [O’Brien] and Tobi really offered me something special and they said they believed in me.”

The transition was not seamless, as she had to fight once again for a starting role. Emerson Richmond Burke was the team’s starting goalkeeper for their Spring 2021 America East Conference Championship victory, earning her the same role for the fall 2021 season.

Richmond Burke significantly outplayed then-freshman Pasquarella in both practice and regular season matches that fall. The 2021 season had its bumps, as Pasquarella allowed three goals against Hofstra in her first-ever half of action. In her first career start, it seemed as if she was en route to an extra time shutout until she let in the game-winner in the 103rd minute against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Despite the adversity, she refused to let her rookie struggles define the player she is.

“Honestly, … the best athletes in the world make mistakes on the biggest stages,” Pasquarella said. “For me, when I let a goal in, I think, ‘What are the next five minutes going to look like? What are the next ten minutes going to look like?’ It doesn’t dictate the rest of the game. Mistakes do happen, but what are you going to do next?”

Pasquarella spent most of her 2022 offseason training in preparation for her sophomore year. Injuries during the preseason left her as the team’s fourth goalie — behind Richmond Burke and freshmen Ava King and Jordan Wolf. After playing only one half through Stony Brook’s first four matches, she got the start at Cincinnati.

The start wound up being a disaster. She conceded five goals as the Seawolves were crushed 5-1. Rather than fold, she flipped the script on the rest of her 2022 season. After strong performances against Providence, Pennsylvania and Manhattan, Bischof committed to Pasquarella as the starting keeper once conference play began.

That move was the right one, as Pasquarella posted four clean sheets and finished the year with the second-most saves in the CAA (91) despite playing in only 16 matches and starting 13. Her .784 save percentage ranked fourth in the conference.

Though Pasquarella had just dethroned a championship-winning goalie and a pair of talented freshmen before breaking out, Pasquarella still worked as though she was at the bottom of the depth chart.

“I think it is so important to stay humble,” Pasquarella said. “Putting in all the work to win the spot doesn’t change the work that still needs to be put in. I’m training as if I have something to earn. We do have something to earn: it’s wins, it’s playoffs, it’s a tournament spot.”

This year, Pasquarella’s repeated success has spearheaded a much-improved defense that is conceding 0.71 fewer goals per match than it was in 2022. Playing behind veteran defenders such as Kerry Pearson and Catharina von Drigalski for several years, Pasquarella and the backline have built a strong chemistry.

The connection they have formed makes them willing to do anything for one another on the pitch, which Pasquarella believes has been the greatest factor in the defensive improvement.

“I think we are all willing to do whatever we can to keep the ball out of the goal,” Pasquarella said. “I think we are more hungry. We all have each other’s backs. In terms of the backline, we are molded to play with each other.”

With how rewarding her college career has been, Pasquarella has fallen in love with her surroundings.

“I couldn’t imagine not being with my team,” Pasquarella said. “My team is who I run with, who I do fitness with, who I cry with, who I laugh with and who I’m most thankful for here. Even our coaching staff — I’m most thankful for them. I feel like we are just one big extended family and that’s the best part of it, regardless of the result.”

While her story as a Seawolf is still being written, it will only be a chapter in the novel of her soccer life. Her aspirations are beyond Stony Brook, as her eyes are set on the professional level.

After all, she has already devoted her whole life to it. She might as well keep going.

“I’m stuck with it — I’m stuck with soccer,” Pasquarella said.

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