In 2018, the University of Georgia soccer team added 11 freshmen. From as far as New Jersey and Texas or as close as Atlanta, each player came to compete for Georgia soccer.
Today, only three of those players remain. Graduates Dani Murguia, Abby Boyan and Cecily Stoute have stuck around for a fifth season with the Bulldogs.
Stoute enrolled at UGA in 2018 after a successful high school soccer and football career, where she made history as the teams first placekicker.
“I have been going to Georgia again since I was like a little kid,” Stoute said. “I used to be a ball girl. So, I’ve always just kind of been involved with the school and once I had an opportunity to come here it was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
After arriving, the Atlanta native quickly became a full-time starter, appearing in 17 of 18 matches. She made the SEC All-Freshman Team for her performance.
Boyan, like Stoute, didn’t wait long to have an immediate impact on the team.
The Spring Lake, New Jersey, native started every game in her freshman season. Boyan has started 80 matches, one more than Stoute, and is on pace to break Georgia’s records for most appearances and starts by a player.
Boyan’s been towards the top of the team statistically, consistently being top five in assists, shots, shots on goal and points. She earned First Team All-SEC honors in 2020 and Second Team All-SEC in 2021.
Amid her success as a student and athlete, Boyan has found quite the success as a leader, being named captain in her senior season.
Both Stoute and Boyan have started almost every game since the end of their freshman season.
Murguia, despite not having as many accolades as her teammates, has been a consistent offensive presence for the team.
Although she didn’t score a goal until her sophomore year, the Cleburne, Texas, native led the team and assisted her freshman year. She then managed to rank second in points the following season.
In her senior season, Murguia was made a full-time starter, leading the team in assists again, and was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Southeast Region Third Team.
Murguia now closes in on Georgia’s points record. With every point, she moves closer to being top ten in history. She’s also only three assists behind the career record of 24.
Going all in
When new head coach Keidane McAlpine joined the Bulldogs in December, the graduates were worried about the direction this team was planning on going.
However, McAlpine made his goal for the graduates clear before the season even started.
“Well, for the seniors that haven’t been to the NCAA, the perfect season is to get them there,” McAlpine said. “That’s the ground floor goal for us. They’ve worked too hard and given too much in this program for us not to have that be the first go on the list.”
One last ride
With the team’s recent win over Texas A&M, Georgia improved its record to 7-2 on the season. That game was just the start of the Bulldogs’ SEC matchups. They face SEC opponents for the rest of the year.
The trio all have a strong belief in the team’s ability to compete this season.
“We have all the right players, we have the right drive, the right everything down to nutrition and strength and conditioning,” Murguia said. “It’s been so amazing. And I think that if we really take that and do our best individually, I think we can all come together, take this team where it hasn’t been before.”
Stoute said she doesn’t want to put a ceiling on the success the team can achieve this season.
“I don’t think there is a ceiling on us, and I don’t want to put one on us, because I think we’re gonna surpass it,” Stoute said.
Each graduate now looks towards December as their graduation date. Stoute is wrapping up her masters and Boyan and Murguia are enjoying their final semester taking a drum class. While they finished their degrees, all three echoed the same sentiment: They couldn’t have done this alone.
“It’s definitely nice to have experienced something with two other people since the beginning,” Boyan said. “We have gone through [a lot together and have] known each other since high school all the way up until now. Everyone has supported us in what we want to accomplish, and [it’s] why we came back to Georgia.”