Two of Keene State’s newest athletes are making an impact on not just one, but two Owl squads.
Sophomore Taylor Bisaillon and first-year Nicole De Almeida have come to KSC with two sports in mind: track and field and soccer. While both said that they probably could’ve attended division two schools, they said they decided to come to a division three program because they didn’t have to choose one or the other.
“I play two sports because I kind of picked going to a d[ivision] three school because I wanted to be able to play two sports,” Bisaillon said.
That desire to play two sports hasn’t caused Bisaillon or De Almeida to sell their team short, according to their two head coaches. She said that the pair has already made strides to enhance their roles on each team.
De Almeida, a defender on the women’s soccer team, came to Keene State in the fall and despite being a rookie, made an impression on head coach Denise Lyons and the rest of the team. She landed a spot as a starter for the entire season and earned Little East Conference (LEC) Rookie of the Year honors, as well as was named to both the LEC first-team and the Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Star team. She was also named to the 2016 New England Women’s Intercollegiate Soccer Association (NEWISA) Division III All-New England team.
Speaking about De Almeida, “She’s a very, very smart defender. She’s in the center back role, which is a key position and she does a great job. She communicates well, she’s very patient and while she lacks experience in the college game, she just jumped right in and did great,” Lyons said.
Lyons sees Bisaillon has also has great value to the team in her own way.
Lyons said that Bisaillon, a sophomore transfer from Albertus Magnus came onto the team with the advantage of experience in college-level soccer and she could be effective at almost anywhere on the field.
“Taylor’s very versatile…I can play her at a number of positions. I could play her on defense, I could play her out on the wing. She brings some pace [and] some speed, so I think both of them have fit in right away which is great.”
The two of them helped the Owls reach the LEC semifinals last fall, where they fell in overtime to Western Connecticut State University (WCSU).
Now in their track and field season, the two newcomers are training their first season with the rest of their team and Coach Tom Pickering. Pickering said that he has already noticed the two athletes showing signs of improvement.
“I’ve seen a lot of progress from the time we started working with them to now in both cases,” Pickering said.
Specifically, Pickering said that he has been working with De Almeida in preparation for short and mid-distance sprinting events, while also working with Bisaillon on becoming a multis athlete, competing in many different kinds of events including javelin and long jump.
“She can probably be developed into a heptathlete,” Pickering said.
The two will come together as a team on the track this season during for the 4X4 event, which will also include a combination of Katelyn and Lindsey Terry and Brittany Gravallese. According to Pickering, this group has the potential to be the best 4X4 squad in the conference.
Once the track season is over, the two said that they hope to carry over the fitness they acquired during the spring to the soccer field, allowing them to outlast their opponents, something they said had cost them wins in the past, like the game against WCSU.
“We just got tired,” De Almeida said. She later continued, “It’s sometimes whoever can outrun the other team.”
Pickering said being involved in athletics and a training program all year leads to better performance and overall conditioning when transitioning from one sport to another.
“The advantages are that they love soccer and so through the summer, they’re not as prone as a division III athlete to just taking a bunch of time off from training because they have to be ready for soccer preseason. If they want to be on the field, they have to be ready,” Pickering said.
Women’s soccer teammate Marianna Porcello said that she is glad to see her fellow Owls show such dedication to athletics.
“I think that both of them work very hard and are very athletic and they kind of have that drive to be fit and in the gym independently which is really important, so I’m really happy that they’re doing track as well,” Porcello said.
According to Lyons, the two players have set the bar high.
“I think they’ve set the tone,” Lyons said.
To De Almeida and Bisaillon, the success they’ve had so far at KSC stems from competitive drive and determination.
“I think it was just a lot of hard work that we had to put in,” De Almeida said.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at Jbarrett@kscequinox.com