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More than a record: Daemen's Jamie Boyar has changed a program

Fifty-five goals. That's the new target for future Daemen College women's soccer players after Jamie Boyar smashed in a rebound against St. Thomas Aquinas in the final game of her Wildcats career. The goal – also the eventual game-winner – toppled a career record that had stood for 13 years.

The Williamsville South alum was a persistent thorn in the side of East Coast Conference defenses for four years, seizing every opportunity to run in behind, dribble past or bull through defenders en route to a goal.

Boyar was an offensive dynamo from the get-go. The breakdown of her season-by-season goal totals tells the story: six as a freshman, when she earned Daemen Athletics' newcomer of the year honors; 11 as a sophomore, when she carved out a place on the all-ECC third team; 20 as a junior, when she became the first player in program history to crack the 20-goal barrier; then 18 as a senior, when she'll inevitably be showered with postseason accolades.

But Boyar's legacy at Daemen extends well beyond the number of times she kicked the ball past a goalkeeper. Her imprints on the program as a team leader, motivator, culture-changer, accountability partner – and sister – are what will be treasured long beyond her graduation.

Tossed into turmoil

Jamie Boyar's freshman season was flipped on its head just a month in, when off-the-field mischief prompted suspensions to several members of the Daemen men's and women's soccer teams.

While Boyar was not involved in the incident personally – she started all 16 games that season – it sent tremors through the program, creating a toxic environment exacerbated further by a shortened bench and minimal on-field success. The Wildcats finished 4-10-2 overall, 1-6-1 in the ECC.

Boyar – typically bubbly and positive – kept her head down, a common tactic of freshman athletes often given grunt work as a rite of passage. But thanks to her soccer ability and immediate impact on the field, hiding in the background wasn't really an option.

It's not a stretch to see how her decision to protect herself from the trouble and toxicity of the situation would attract further animosity from older players, especially given her obvious gifts. Was she a ball hog? Was her quiet nature an air of superiority?

"[Boyar] was reserved and really kept to herself, which made her struggle being cohesive with the team and being a team player," described a teammate on that 2016 squad.

"Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." - Nicole Grichen, Daemen game-day quote, Oct. 29, 2019.

Jamie Boyar possesses the ball against Mercy in 2019. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

A 'surge' of change

Head coach Dan Dolan and his staff blew up the roster following the 2016 season, recruiting 18 new faces for a fresh start. There was an eagerness to change the team's direction not only on the field, but off. Boyar, who grew up just a few miles from the school, stuck around.

College coaches frequently harp on "team culture" as essential to a team's success. It's a metric difficult to measure; it's better thought of as an organism, one that thrives with good health but is destructive when sick.

Keeping a group of 20+ men or women in their late teens and early 20s in relative harmony for three months – especially when they're constantly around each other, away from home and grappling with adversity (losing, injuries, the battle for playing time, personality clashes, balancing schoolwork, really any number of things) – sounds like an impossible exercise.

To a great degree, then, coaches rely on their players – often, but not always, their most talented players – to buy in to the team's culture and set the standard for the rest of the team to follow.

Boyar and Lindsay Ciaramella, just sophomores, became those de facto leaders, while transfers Sarah Kenny and Celia de Pablo Esteban, plus true freshmen Sam D'Agostino and Sam Hanes led the charge in breathing new life and badly needed optimism into the program.

Dolan established the S.U.R.G.E. acronym, standing for Self-disciplined, United, Respectful, Grateful and Encouraging. To be part of the team, these were the five traits every Daemen Wildcat had to uphold.

Two months into her sophomore season, Boyar was overjoyed with the new circumstances; positive change was in motion, and it was exciting.

"Last year was extremely rough," Boyar said following a 2017 loss to Molloy. "[This year], we brought in so many fresh people and they're just ready to go. In practice it's so much more competitive and we're pushing each other, and everyone has bought into the program this year."

She'd become close with Kenny, a quick-witted, affable Australian; and Ciaramella, a hard-tackling, tattooed midfielder from Ontario. They are three very different people, but they shared a common goal, and the end-of-season results – 9-7-1 overall, 3-5 in ECC – reflected a program headed in the right direction again.

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it." – Avery Cambria, Daemen game-day quote for Sept. 25.

A marked woman

After her breakout years as an underclassman, Boyar was not going to sneak up on anyone. She was already lethal on the counter attack, very quick with the ball at her feet and a composed finisher in front of goal, and she'd proven that against competent competition, as the ECC can be a gauntlet.

Her last two years, then, were spent predominantly with opposing defenses intent on stymieing her any way possible. Boyar would often have one defender marking her tightly, with another close by for help. Playing on the left wing helped, to some degree, as it allowed her more space to operate. Still, savvy older defenders would try to get under her skin physically or verbally, knowing she could have a bit of a temper.

Boyar has been under the watchful eye of her parents, her two biggest supporters. Her father, Stu Boyar, the longtime WGRZ sports anchor/reporter/videographer, would stand apart from the rest of the Daemen parents, a personal preference due to the intensity and nerves he felt during his daughter's matches. His high standards ultimately helped Jamie, although at times Stu had to keep his own expectations in check.

"I always want her to make the perfect play," he mentioned on the sideline during one 2019 match. "But I've had to realize that she's human."

Monique Green, Boyar's teammate at Williamsville South and for three years at Daemen, saw firsthand how the striker developed from the perspective of her center back role; they saw a lot of each other in training, too.

"Jamie has become more confident on and off the ball, knowing when to take on defenders 1-vs.-1, having the tactical awareness [to know] when to make the right run, or even making the right threatening pass in the final third to create a goal-scoring opportunity. A lot of that comes from her increased maturity and selflessness," said Green, in a message this fall.

Dolan noted some opponents still haven't adjusted; they will still play a high line or have one defender mark her closely without help, both of which play to Boyar's strengths. Against smarter foes, Dolan noted how well she adjusts to how she's defended.

"She does a really good job of changing her runs to get away from defenders," he said, "and she's done more in possession, knocking it back, keeping it when everything [in the past] was just through balls."

In addition to the Wildcats' S.U.R.G.E. continuity, Boyar's 20-goal junior season was a huge reason why Daemen advanced to the ECC playoffs for the first time since transitioning from NAIA in 2013.

"There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits."  – Katja Meyer, Daemen game-day quote for Oct. 9.

The consummate teammate

Jamie Boyar, left, battles for the ball with Trista Sears of Mercy. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

The premier example of Boyar's growth as a player and a person came in the Wildcats' second ECC match of her senior season, at home against Mercy College.

The visitors were no slouch: Mercy had advanced to the NCAA Division II Tournament semifinals two years prior and reached the ECC playoffs every year since 2012. Daemen had never beaten the Mavericks in six tries.

Mercy's major strength has been its fullbacks' threat in joining the attack, especially senior right back Trista Seara.

That meant Boyar, ordinarily focused on attacking, would be asked by her coaches to sit deeper and help defensively while still taking opportunities to drive forward.

Although not the prettiest display, it was fascinating to watch the player who'd eventually set the career goals record get stuck in defensively, battle for loose balls in her own third and scrap a little after the whistle.

It was gritty – Boyar narrowly dodged a second yellow card in the second half – but that's what was required to pull out a 1-0 win.

Note that freshman Alyssa Mercado scored the game's only goal, not Boyar. But that didn't bother an elated, almost happily tearful Boyar after the match.

"I was real emotional after this game – I was so happy for Alyssa," Boyar said after the signature win.

Boyar expresses her frustration at a call against Mercy. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

When asked about her toeing the line of a second booking, she admitted she was riled up, but mentioned what kept her from lashing out at the referee.

"My team kept me calm, my coaches kept me calm; I'm thankful they were there," Boyar said. "I had to remember, 'Keep your poise and remember that there's a whole group of people out here counting on you.' "

Monique Green, on hand as alumni support for that win over Mercy, summed it up nicely. "She's grown to be a great leader and values the team's success above her own."

"She's a great kid, man," Dolan said following the win. "For someone who scores as many goals as she does, you'd think she'd have a bit of an ego – she doesn't."

"When you pull on that jersey, you represent yourself and your teammates. And the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the name on the back." – Megan White, Daemen game-day quote for Sept. 28.

Career reflections

While incoming freshmen will look at Boyar's name atop the career goal-scoring list, one player is never bigger than the program. After her own shy, isolated start, Boyar now cherishes the friendships she's built and the culture she leaves behind.

That original friendship between Ciaramella, Kenny and Boyar was truly a turning point for the program, and the trio's leadership was absolutely vital to Daemen's success in winning 19 games over the last two years.

"Linds, Ken and I – we're really close to begin with – on and off the field, they're some of my best friends," Boyar said during her senior year. "We have that bond and it translates across the whole group. These girls are our sisters and we try to keep that on the field as well."

Dolan is grateful for the trio's steadiness and commitment to the philosophy.

"The last two years, we have core values, team rules and expectations, and they've just carried them out," the head coach said. "They are the heartbeat of the team – they [handle] Word of the Week, they're in the huddle, they talk all the time.

"They're just an extension of the coaching staff; they hold people accountable when they screw up, then they bring them back in."

Asked how she's matured across her time at Daemen, Boyar was a little vague but still delivered her point.

"It's how [I] react to certain situations," she said. "My freshman year I don't think I would ever have the accountability I'd need to have for myself. I wouldn't have been able to do that [now] without the conversations I've had with the coaching staff and the team."

Fifty-five goals over four years is a tremendous accomplishment. But that number – and that prestige – isn't the only thing Boyar will leave behind.

"She's put in incredible work the past four years and deserves everything she receives," Dolan said. "But to be honest, I don't think the record really means much to her. She cares more about the team and the team succeeding. I think she would trade the record if it meant we had another game to play."

"Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't." – Alyssa Mercado, Daemen game-day quote, Oct. 29.

Jamie Boyar, No. 23, all-time leading scorer in Daemen soccer history. (Ben Tsujimoto/Buffalo News)

Related: Roll through more BN Soccer features from fall 2019:

Bond between a senior, freshman keeps Canisius stout at the back
• How Purple Eagles were there when Yousif Kowa needed them most
• Gurjeena Jandu learns to delegate, that doing less sometimes is more
Rodrigo Almeida shines in the Portuguese pipeline to NU
• There's absolutely no quit in Buffalo State's Josh Beshaw
• Medaille's three seniors prove the merits of loyalty

email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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