By Eamon Convey, The Daily Spark
BROCKTON, Mass. -- Still two years shy of her 30th birthday and in just her third full season at the helm for Bridgewater State's Lady Bears soccer program, Yasmina Carvalho accomplished a feat many coaches only dream of.
Carvalho, 28, of Brockton, was named the 2016 Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Coach of the Year.
Under her leadership, the Lady Bears are 23-25-8 overall with an impressive 12-7-2 in MASCAC contests, including three straight trips to the MASCAC Tournament, and a 2-1 loss in the MASCAC Championship game just a few weeks ago.
"For me, it's a huge deal and it is definitely a personal accomplishment, but," Carvalho explained, "It is also a huge compliment to those who have affected my life as far as coaching."
Forever a team player, Carvalho heaped praise on her coaching mentors, such as hers and current Brockton High School girls basketball head coach, April Dingwell, as well as her coach as a player at BSU, Andrea Zeigler-O'Connor.
"[Coach Dingwell] was a person that got me into coaching even back then. And Andrea, too, they both showed me that I had what it takes to be a coach, even at such a young age."
As fondly as she spoke about her love of coaching, so too did the energy exude from Carvalho as she remembered her childhood dreams of becoming a Physical Education teacher. Here, too, she quickly found a role model, now former Athletic Director of Brockton High School, Peter Caruso.
"Well, I know it sounds weird, but I wanted to be a Physical Education teacher since I was six years old. It was mainly because of my elementary school P.E. teacher, I call him Mr. Caruso. He used to remind me that, you know, you get to play sports all day and get paid for it."
Just before graduating from Brockton High School in 2006, Yasmina made the difficult decision to give up her basketball career in favor of getting a soccer scholarship.
"It was when I was going into my senior season of basketball that I knew that I was a soccer player and wanted to continue to play in college, plus I saw other teammates already getting recruited, so it just had to be done."
Despite her relatively late arrival into the recruiting process, Carvalho enrolled at BSU to get her bachelor's in physical education, and play on the Lady Bears soccer team as a defensive center back.
Four years later, Carvalho had amassed three All-MASCAC seasons, spent half of her time at BSU as captain of the Lady Bears, developed a passion for coaching, and earned her bachelors in the field she dreamt about most of her life.
Almost immediately, Carvalho had a job as an assistant coach at Stonehill College in Easton, and landed her dream job of teaching P.E. at Brockton High. After two successful (winning) seasons at Stonehill, Yasmina spent another at UMass-Boston as an assistant.
"Coach [Rolando] Lopes at Stonehill taught me so much about coaching college players," Carvalho said, "My year at UMass-Boston, taught me even more and prepared me for the next step."
That next step?
A chance to return to her alma mater, this time as the women's soccer head coach.
"I knew I was making the right decision to take the job here at BSU. One hundred and ten percent it was exactly what I wanted."
Just 24 years old when she was hired in January of 2014, Carvalho is believed to be the youngest coach in Bridgewater State history, and is certainly one of the youngest coaches anywhere to be selected as their league's Coach of the Year.
"I couldn't do any of this without my players, my coaching staff, and my mentors along the way, though," Carvalho humbly admitted, "It is an individual award, but I could never have done this without help from so many people."
This past season saw the Lady Bears take a critical step forward, as they advanced to their first MASCAC Tournament championship game under Carvalho.
Though the No. 3 seed Lady Bears ultimately lost to top-seeded Worcester State, 2-1, the experience helped junior goalkeeper Lauren DeSousa win MASCAC Player of the Year, and cemented Carvalho's COY honor as well.
Wise beyond her 28 years, coach Carvalho offered this final piece of wisdom to younger players that might be questioning their coach's choices,
"Players don't recognize how much coaches go through in the decision-making process," Carvalho lamented, "Worrying and second-guessing every choice of who to play, what position to play them in, what strategy to use in that particular game."
Carvalho noted that she is, "Excited for next year and the future of our program. Getting to the championship game and playing well is a good start, but we want to win the MASCAC Tournament and move on to the NCAAs."
Losses and hardship only seem to motivate this young leader, making it likely BSU will make noise once again next season.