October is about the postseason. In the American sporting lexicon, the month is synonymous with pressure and potential glory. It’s Babe Ruth calling his shot, Jackie Robinson stealing home, Willie Mays making an impossible catch and David Ortiz and the Red Sox turning the tables.
For more than a century, October has served as baseball’s biggest stage. And for head coach Tim Corbin’s two decades leading the Vanderbilt baseball program, that has transformed October into a month showcasing all that Commodores can achieve. Now, one of Vanderbilt’s best 21st-century traditions is growing beyond the diamond. As baseball alumni again took the field in the Major League Baseball playoffs, Vanderbilt soccer alumni were busy competing for places in the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs. And when Haley Hopkins and the North Carolina Courage host Gotham FC in an opening-round game on Sunday evening, October’s bright spotlight will again shine on a former Dore.
Hopkins and the Courage made good on a return to the playoffs after the team missed out a season ago. In Washington, Maddie Elwell and the Washington Spirit very nearly put the finishing touches on a franchise reboot that would have taken them from next to last to the playoffs. The two teams met Sunday in Cary, North Carolina, with the Courage’s 1-0 victory sealing each team’s postseason fate. And there would be another Commodore on the field in the playoffs it not for the unfortunate season-ending injury suffered by Angel City FC’s Simone Charley, Vanderbilt’s first representative in the NWSL.
Thirty years after pioneering Vanderbilt student-athletes won the SEC’s first women’s soccer championship, and 10 years after the NWSL’s debut opened a new chapter in the history of the women’s game, Elwell, Hopkins and Charley are trailblazers for a new generation. Mentored by a coach who, like Corbin, saw the potential in using Vanderbilt’s unique qualities as a blueprint for SEC success, soccer alumni are helping to shape the growth of the sport.
“You’re going to be a professional something when you leave Vanderbilt, whether that’s on a field or in an office,” head coach Darren Ambrose said. “That may mean you’re going to go be a doctor, entrepreneur or work in consulting—but you can also be a professional soccer player. We have the capacity to develop both worlds for you. And now that the league is established, it is really rewarding to see the kids who…