Tessa Devereaux, a senior center midfielder for the Stony Brook women’s soccer team, did not have to wait long to learn what winning feels like at the collegiate level. Back in 2012, Devereaux’s freshman year, the Seawolves won their first-ever America East Conference Championship.
“Just going through that your first year, it sets the bar high. You realize what that feeling is like and you want to do anything to be able to have that back,” Devereaux said in a phone interview. “My sophomore and junior year when we came up short, it made it even harder to experience because we had seen what it looked like freshman year to hold up that trophy.”
Over the past three seasons, Devereaux has solidified herself as the team’s offensive conductor. The five-foot-three-inch health science major led the squad with seven assists and 11 points last season, but was more concerned with missing a postseason bid.
“Throughout college I really haven’t been focused as much on my individual accolades like winning awards and scoring goals,” Devereaux said. “Once we won freshman year, I’m just so focused on doing anything to get that back. Even if that means playing the role of the person who sets up goals. I’m willing to do that.”
Devereaux’s path to becoming Stony Brook’s top facilitator–and one of the few remaining athletes from the program’s greatest season–began during that unexpected run in 2012.
But her roots in soccer trace back much further.
“I started when I was four, and it’s funny because none of my family actually played soccer,” Devereaux said. “I think it was the type of thing where they wanted to let me try as many sports as I wanted to and then decide which one I liked best.”
Devereaux played softball as well, but said soccer was her “primary sport” and “took precedence over everything else.” When Devereaux went on to Jamesville-DeWitt High School just outside of Syracuse, N.Y., she began taking the game more seriously, but before that, she was very routine in her time as a Ram. Go to practice and go home; not a lot of extra work was put in.
“I had this one club coach who really instilled in me that you have to take the time to do stuff on your own and develop your own skills,” she said. “So I started spending one to two hours everyday on my own doing technical work and fitness. I think that’s when my game really took off and I saw the most improvement.”
Devereaux said she received offers from big schools and small, but chose Stony Brook to stay close to her family and get a chance to play from the get-go.
“The coaches really emphasized that no matter what year you are coming in you’re going to have a chance to play and you’re going to have a chance to make an impact. I know there’s a lot of other programs that aren’t necessarily like that,” Devereaux said. “My family has always been huge supporters of me and my parents love coming to every single one of my games so I wanted them to still be able to do that.”
The Devereaux family has taken advantage of that opportunity. Tessa’s father once booked a flight to Colorado the night before her daughter’s game to watch her play. Devereaux also credits her little sister for her pivotal role.
“I looked up to my sister because she also played soccer and she was the one person who whenever I wanted to go train on my own or run she would always come with me,” Devereaux said. “We would have our own little competitions just between the two of us. I’d say that she was very much there throughout my development to help me get better and challenge me.”
Women’s soccer head coach Sue Ryan said Devereaux will have a key role on the team, both on and off the field.
“She’s a wonderful student, she’s a great player,” Ryan said in a phone interview. “She’s got a great training mentality for the younger players. She’s a great role model. It’s a positive all the way around in terms of her contributions to the team and to the program.”
As one of just three seniors on the 2015 roster, Devereaux understands that she has to be a leader and plans to use her experience from freshman year to try to find the same success this season.
“They really instilled in us freshman year that we were a true family and we always had each other’s backs. It didn’t really matter what class you were in, whether you were a freshman or senior, everyone got along really well. Everyone accepted their role on the team,” Devereaux said. “I think that whole environment may have gotten lost in the last couple of years and maybe that’s why we haven’t been as successful. But I think we can all feel it starting to come back.”
Follow David Vertsberger on Twitter: @_Verts.