As Cabrini University begins its 67th and final academic year, there is an empty feeling around the once bustling campus. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article noted at least 250 students already transferred to other institutions since news broke of Villanova’s purchase of the property.
The noticeable lack of enrollment translated to the college’s athletic programs as well, leaving women’s volleyball, and basketball with canceled schedules for the 2023-2024 athletic season.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding students’ future plans, sports such as field hockey, men’s basketball, and men’s/women’s soccer will still field teams for the 2023 fall sports season.
Additionally, the freshman recruiting classes have suffered, with just 13 freshmen participating amongst the institution’s fall sports teams.
Women’s soccer alone makes up over half of this number, with seven freshmen joining the roster for this final season. Five of the seven freshmen on the women’s soccer team spoke with The Loquitur about how they are handling this difficult situation.
An unthinkable situation
The mood among the five freshman athletes is bittersweet, as the news of the university’s closure was something none of them thought possible. Kiara Soto, freshman women’s soccer goalkeeper said, “My mouth dropped when I read the article. My heart was set on this school, and it’s still set on this school.”
Soto, a nursing major, was forced to weigh her options when Cabrini announced significant changes to its nursing program this year. However, the NCAA granted a waiver to Cabrini nursing majors allowing them to attend Eastern University’s nursing program. Additionally, this waiver allows student athletes to compete for Cabrini’s athletic teams.
“I walk over from Eastern every day, and despite this, Cabrini feels like home. Even though it’s only a home for one year it’s better than not having a home at all,” Soto said.
This freshman class also has personal connections to the university. Soto’s cousin is a member of the field hockey team, and freshman women’s soccer forward, Erin Ewing’s parents are Cabrini alumni.
“This is the school I wanted to attend for four years, not one,” Ewing said.
Freshman women’s soccer midfielder, Erin Speak, also joins her teammates in her sadness about the school’s closure.
“My heart was broken when I found out the news. Cabrini was one of the first schools that reached out to me,” Speak said.
The announcement of the Villanova takeover left Speak extremely stressed as she did not have a backup plan. With only one month before the start of fall semester, Speak chose to stay.
“I eventually decided to stick it out at Cabrini, and figured if I hate it it’s only one year. But I love being here, and it’s really annoying that we can’t stay here, and it’s also annoying that everyone else going to other schools will have the four–year experience,” Speak said.
A few silver linings
Even with the sadness and uncertainty surrounding this season, there are positives.
Soto said, “I feel like the upperclassmen have really stepped up to make this one year feel like we have three more seasons left. We aren’t talking about how the school is closing every day.” Soto also said the upperclassmen are making a point to include freshmen in social functions.
In addition, the consensus amongst the players is that the Cabrini athletic department has been very supportive in helping the girls plan out their next move. All of the players were put into the transfer portal on day one of their attendance. The athletes feel as though Cabrini athletics is doing everything they can to help guide them into the best situation for the remainder of their college experience.
This season also provides an interesting opportunity for freshmen athletes to find their next school.
“In a weird way it was kind of an easy decision to stick with Cabrini because every school in the area will be watching us play, and reaching out to us because they know we won’t have a team next year,” Ewing said.
The players also said women’s soccer head coach, Ken Prothero, gives all the players a chance to play to help increase their visibility.
“Coach hasn’t talked about the school closing at all. Every practice, every game, we know we are getting closer to the end, but he does not act like it,” Sam Terry, freshman women’s soccer defender said.
Prothero’s players love his positive coaching approach, as he is notorious for doing fun things such as playing little soccer games with his players, and providing his team with homemade smoothies, and popsicles.
Despite the clouds hanging over this season, it is clear Cabrini freshmen are making the most of their experience as Cavaliers.
Soto said, “I’m probably going to take pieces of turf with me. Everyone here is so wonderful. It’s a curse, but it’s also a blessing in disguise because we still get to be with each other every day.”