‘Heartbreaking and heartwarming’: STU soccer teams host inaugural Mary Cronin memorial game

Stills of the St. Thomas University women's soccer team playing this past September 24th, 2023. for the Mary Cronin Memorial games. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

On Sept. 23,  the St. Thomas University Tommies hosted the first annual Mary Cronin Memorial game, in memory of a STU alum who suddenly passed away last year. Cronin played for the STU women’s soccer team before transferring to the UNB women’s rugby team, with whom she played one season. 

Related: ‘I love her’: UNB, STU women’s rugby game honours the life of Mary Cronin

The STU men’s and women’s soccer teams both faced the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus Rams, where they won with astonishing results of 6-0 and 4-0, respectively. 

Michele Cronin, Mary’s mother, spoke on the mix of emotions she felt watching all that was made to honour her daughter. 

“It’s hard, but at the same time, it speaks to Mary and her personality and how many people she had an impact on, and how many loved her,” said Cronin. 

“It was heartwarming. Heartbreaking, but mostly heartwarming.”

Cronin mentioned how much sports meant to her daughter, who was a Tommie from 2016 to 2020. She said her daughter believed in working hard and playing hard and that her varsity teams became a family that helped support her through her university career. 

It was a game full of emotions and included a ceremony by the newly planted red maple tree, planted in line with the goalpost, acknowledging Mary’s position on the team.

“When she played soccer and was at the back of a net, you would hear her yelling, supporting her team no matter what happened.”

Cronin expressed how this memorial game can be taken as a lesson for everyone. 

“I hope they know that you’re always supported. No matter what team you play on, you’re supported by not only your teammates but also their family and their friends,” she said. 

Michelle DeCourcey, former coach of the STU women’s soccer team, said that this was an opportunity to see familiar faces and remember the family that Mary was part of. She coached Mary when she played for STU, including in 2018 when Cronin captained the ACAA championship-winning team. 

“She would have enjoyed seeing people gathering for her,” said DeCourcey. “She was good at bringing people together, keeping people together and making things fun.”

DeCourcey said Cronin was an easy choice as a team captain because of her values. 

She described her as “a natural leader. She could keep people in line.” 

Lauren Erb, a fifth-year goalie of the Tommies, shared the pitch for years with Cronin growing up. They went to nationals together with the Fredericton District Soccer Association. 

“She was such an inspiration. She’s the one actually that convinced me to go to STU and I am forever thankful that she did,” said Erb. 

The Tommies played as hard as they could to win, but for Erb, this game meant more than the three points. 

“Seeing all of her family and friends there was so emotional, you could feel her presence, even though she’s not here anymore,” said Erb. 

Tommies’ co-captain Abby Cameron said she felt honoured to have been part of the memorial game. 

“She was a great person and a great soccer player and it’s an honour to be able to go out there and represent her,” said Cameron.

For the team this was not like any other game. 

“I feel like it was just a completely different mindset,” said Cameron. “It’s not for you, do it for the girls with you and do it for Mary.”

Cameron shared that the team had an emotional moment in the locker room before kick-off. 

“Lauren said ‘Nothing’s guaranteed, go out there and give it your all because you never know when’s your last game’,” she said.

“We hung up Mary’s jersey in the locker room and we all gave it a kiss on the way out the door.”