Seven months ago, it was just an idea. Today, it has become reality — Palm Beach State College now has a women’s soccer team.
College staff member and head coach Paulo Bodnar spearheaded the idea, and in no time fielded a full squad of local talent from Palm Beach and Broward counties.
“Many area high school graduates who attend Palm Beach State now have the opportunity to play soccer at the collegiate level,” Bodnar said.
Bodnar held a series of tryouts last October and was overwhelmed by the response and commitment from the women who made the inaugural team.
“The team is self-funded for the time being,” added Bodnar, who hopes to gain additional support from the school’s administration and athletic department.
The school’s initial idea was to provide an intramural league for the PBSC campuses to play against each other.
Bodnar and the team decided to compete on a larger scale. The Panthers are currently a club team. This means they play organized matches against other schools with certified officials and participate in collegiate tournaments, with a limited budget from the school. Most of the financial support comes from fundraisers from the team and coaches.
“This is a big step, since soccer didn’t exist prior to the inception of this team,” Bodnar said. “We have to start somewhere, and eventually we would like to be officially a part of the school’s athletics as a varsity squad.”
The team practices at the school’s main campus in Lake Worth, but team members attend classes at the various campuses. “The girls wanted more than just intramural soccer playing against each other,” Bodnar said. “They wanted to represent their school, wearing the colors, playing against other schools, and we were able to get that done.”
The team is young but motivated. The squad is preparing for final exams and summer break, but managed to play a total of seven games, including a collegiate tournament in Orlando at the University of Central Florida.
The team has been competitive in every game, playing schools across the state. Bodnar also stressed that student education is a priority. The players must maintain at least a 2.0 to be able to play on the team.
“Their motivation and commitment is admirable,” he said, recalling the most memorable victory of their first season against the varsity team from Florida College. The Panthers won that contest 3-1.
The team includes mostly Palm Beach County players, from Seminole Ridge, Palm Beach Central and Royal Palm Beach high schools, as well as the Kings Academy and other schools.
Bodnar hopes to one day implement a varsity team with the approval of the college, offering scholarships to area athletes desiring to play at the next level. “We need to take baby steps first,” he said.
Palm Beach State College varsity teams participate in the NJCAA.
On the horizon for next year, the Panthers will join the Broward Women’s Soccer League and already have a scheduled match against the College of the Bahamas on Oct. 10.
To follow Palm Beach State College women’s soccer, visit www.palmbeachstatewomensoccer.com.
ABOVE: Panther midfielder Marjorie Castro takes her shot in a match against Florida Gulf Coast.