By Rebecca Hyman, Taunton Gazette
TAUNTON, Mass. -- It may be nearly impossible to score a goal against Lauren DeSousa, but she just accomplished a major goal of her own.
“It went by so fast. It’s still surreal, but it’s very rewarding,” said DeSousa, a Taunton resident who will graduate with a degree in social work from Bridgewater State University on Saturday.
DeSousa, who was a star soccer goalie at Coyle and Cassidy, went on to be the all-time shutout leader at BSU.
“Every time I hit the field, it’s an opportunity to completely be myself and do what I love,” said DeSousa.
The goalie’s position seemed like a natural fit for DeSousa. When she started playing as a little kid, she was bigger than the other players.
And there was another quality that the coaches noticed. She didn’t mind having the ball coming at her and the extra responsibility of having so much riding on her performance.
“They said, ‘You’re brave enough’ and put me in,” DeSousa said.
But it wasn’t until sixth grade when she had her first goal-keeping training.
“I learned the right way to do this and I fell in love with it,” she said.
Nothing matches the euphoria of having a great game, of being a human wall, stopping the ball time after time, she said. It’s not about ego - just the opposite. It’s the experience itself and knowing she’s helping her team that matters, she said.
She does everything she can to prepare, from eating well to working out.
But in the moment, something kicks in that goes beyond logic and rules, she said.
“People come up to me and say, ‘You’re crazy.’ There are games where I put myself into positions to make a save and say to myself later, ‘How the heck did I do that?’,” DeSousa said.
DeSousa, who started her college career on a soccer scholarship at Pace University in New York, said she had an incredible freshman year.
But when sophomore year rolled around, tuition went up but her scholarship didn’t, so she decided to transfer to BSU for financial reasons.
And she hasn’t regretted it.
BSU has been a great home for her, both academically and athletically, she said. Pace has a Division II soccer program, which come with a lot of prestige, but it also takes over your life.
BSU has a Division III program, which let her get her life back and still allowed her to play on a team with a lot of talent, she said.
The BSU women’s soccer team went 29-19-9 during her three seasons and captured a share of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season title last fall.
DeSousa said she picked social work for her major because she’s always loved working with children.
“One thing I told myself was I was put on this Earth for a bigger reason than myself,” DeSousa said.
She plans to take a year off from school and work at her current jobs, coaching for a local soccer club and wearing many hats at a soccer retailer in Foxboro.
Then she will go back for her master’s degree in social work in the fall of 2019, probably either at BSU, Rhode Island College or Boston University.
Her ultimate goal is be an adjustment counselor or social worker at a school, she said.
She said she comes from a very supportive family with a great sports tradition.
Her mother, Mary Paulo, was a basketball player at Taunton High School. Her uncle, John Paulo Jr., was also an athlete at Taunton High and another uncle, Joseph Paulo, was a football coach at Coyle and Cassidy.
“I want to make sure others have the opportunities I was lucky enough to have. My family built an amazing foundation under me and my coaches built me up,” DeSousa said.