By Kaie Quigley & Nico Manganiello – Co-Editor-in-Chief & 1851 Contributor
First-year women’s soccer striker Alyssa DeOliveira from East Providence, Rhode Island was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Rookie of the Year for the 2021 season. She lead the conference in goals scored (18) and shots (97) on her way to becoming the program’s first-ever Rookie of the Year.
DeOliveira was also second overall in the conference for points with 37. In addition, her impressive debut season earned her GNAC first-team honors— something head coach Vito La Francesca knew she was always capable of.
“We always knew from day one watching her that she had something special. She’s got that mentality where enough is not good enough. She always wants more,” said La Francesca. “When we recruited her two years ago, we knew that she was probably going to be one of the top players in the league.”
Not only did DeOliveira emerge as a top player in the conference, she has a case of being one of the top players in all of Division III according to La Francesca. Because of this, La Francesca nominated her for the New England All-Region team. “If she makes the All-New England team, then she automatically qualifies for All-American,” said La Francesca. DeOliveira’s 18 goals put her in the top 10 in the nation for total goals in Division III women’s soccer. On November 30, it was announced she received All-New England second-team honors.
While her coach foresaw DeOliveira’s success, the athlete had humble expectations for her first year. “In the beginning of the year, [the team] had this ritual where we write down three goals and mine was to score three goals this season,” said DeOliveira. “That was my goal for the season…then I ended up leading the conference.”
The Lasers’ top scorer didn’t even expect to start coming into this season, but her work ethic earned her a starting spot. La Francesca has a policy when it comes to starting lineups. “We tell all our recruits that we don’t have a starting lineup, you earn it at practice… I always say to them if you work hard enough, I’ll be the first to put you on the field,” said La Francesca. “She definitely put in her work and she definitely deserved every game she started and played.”
Another first-year to crack the starting lineup was Priscilla Martinelli, who credited DeOliveira’s need to succeed. “I think her determination, always wanting to be better, and taking practice extremely seriously allows Alyssa to perform at the highest level at any given time. I think us working as both forwards, we both pushed each other and it helped both of our games.” Martinelli praised DeOliveira’s winning of Rookie of the Year; “She 100% deserves it. She has worked the hardest for it.”
Before arriving at Lasell, DeOliveira took a year off from soccer and school to work in the United States military. She says her military training helped her to develop mental toughness. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever gone through my entire life. It opened the world for me,” she said. “I would never change it for anything.”
Martinelli noticed the mentality of her fellow first-year forward. “Coming from the army, Alyssa has that background [of being mentally tough], she can capitalize and accomplish anything if she puts her mind to it,” she said.
DeOliveira also showed physical toughness throughout the course of the season playing all 17 games with a torn labrum.
Coach La Francesca said the injury was noticed at the start of pre-season and caused her to sit out the entirety of pre-season, and miss every scrimmage and non-conference game. After those two weeks, they learned her injury required surgery, but she was cleared to play if she could tolerate the pain. La Francesca said when DeOliveira learned the news, she said “coach I’m playing, no one’s keeping me off this field.”
DeOliveira debuted in the Lasers’ first conference game against Emmanuel, scoring two goals on two shots, and showed no signs of regression as the year played out. “I don’t know how she did it. But she scored all those goals and played phenomenal with a torn labrum. So it just tells the type of character she is, you know how strong she is mentally, and how dedicated she is to the sport,” said La Francesca.
“I was playing this season at like 75%,” said DeOliveira, who is now set to have surgery on December 30. “So hopefully I get my surgery… It’s a full recovery, and then I can come back stronger and be better for the team next year. And hopefully we can do the same thing that we did this season but even better and get that [GNAC] cup back.”
La Francesca also said DeOliveira’s mentality began to rub off on her teammates. “I think towards the end of the season, her personality, her attitude… it was an addiction. Everybody that started getting around her started forming that same mentality… she led by example.”
La Francesca cherished the opportunity to coach DeOliveira and the rest of the team this fall, saying “my highlight of the day was showing up to practice and… getting to challenge these players, and a lot of that has to do because of her.”