It would not be uncommon for the Boise State soccer team to be huddled up having a serious discussion about playmaking or tactics, when a quiet voice makes a sly comment, causing head coach Jim Thomas to do a double-take before realizing who it came from and joining the stifled laughter.
That quiet quip could only have come from senior sociology major Raven Sweeney, a midfielder from Corona, Calif. who has found her home with the Broncos since transferring from Washington State in her junior year.
“She’s funny; she’s really, really witty. It’s just quiet. There’ll be a lot of people barking, and all of a sudden you hear this little side comment from her…she’s really quite funny when she does it,” Thomas said.
As a midfielder, it is Sweeney’s role to anchor the team. But as the Broncos have quickly discovered, there is much more to Sweeney’s presence than simply executing her job on the field.
“I feel like when you’re a leader, you just have to lead by example,” Sweeney said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a very vocal leader just because this is my second year here. So the best way I can help (the younger players) is by showing them by my actions.”
While she is often soft-spoken and humble, her presence on the pitch is essential to keeping the Broncos calm and collected. Thomas and his staff were concerned at first that her quiet manner reflected nervousness, but Sweeney’s confidence has grown to prove the opposite.
“A lot of the other players that she plays with now have pulled me aside and mentioned that in the games, they feel more comfortable with her now than they used to, based on the fact that they’re relying on that calm,” Thomas said. “She offers us a calm in a crazy, chaotic world and game…Whenever you have a role that people rely on, that’s when you’re a starter.”
After realizing her mismatch with Washington State, Sweeney looked to Boise State, a school which had showed interest in her since high school and was home to her best friend, senior midfielder Mikayla Schachtell. Sweeney and Schachtell have known each other since seventh grade, and played together on their high school and club teams.
Schachtell called Sweeney’s transition to being a Bronco a smooth one. On and off the field, Sweeney has the ability to get the team excited and can always make everyone laugh.
“Everyone loves her on the team. She’s like, seriously, the most fun person ever… She fit in with our chemistry perfectly,” Schachtell said. “She wins all the balls, so then it makes everyone else work harder. She definitely brings a presence that can pick people up.”
Clearly excited to be back playing with her best friend, Schachtell ensured Sweeney that she would love Boise. Sweeney knew it was sound advice because, “when (Schachtell) says I would love something, I knew I would.”
Because of the natural difficulties that come with adjusting to a new team, it is not very common for transfer athletes to be able to perform at Sweeney’s level. She has already scored three goals this season, and has no plans of slowing down.
“It often goes missed that transfers work out. And it’s really, really hard to do it…The way that Raven has worked out to this point is a testament to her. It’s got nothing to do with us,” Thomas said. “I think we’ve offered the opportunity and laid the groundwork for her; it really takes her to open and then walk through the door…So the fact that she’s now scoring goals, starting for us, has passed every fitness test that we’ve got and is crushing school; that’s a testament to her.”
One of Sweeney’s most recent goals (against New Mexico State) was a header from a right side corner kick, an in-air skill which Thomas called Sweeney “elite” at executing. Thomas also noted her “immense” passing range and other dynamic contributions to the Broncos’ skill sets, which will be essential against the Mountain West.
Sweeney scored the only goal in Boise State’s 1-0 victory over Idaho State on Friday, Sept. 6, a goal which secured the Broncos’ best start to a season in program history (4-0).
Regardless of the outcome of her senior year, Sweeney’s presence will stand to remind others to lead fiercely, even if it is quietly. It is a difficult task to pin one specific “most likely to” label on an athlete, but Thomas knows the perfect, and somewhat ironic, superlative to describe Sweeney.
“(She is) most likely to have the ‘loudest life’,” Thomas said. “She’s so quiet that I think people overlook her. I think she’s going to find a really great way to have a loud life, to have a big impact on life and other people. The community that she decides to settle in, she’ll be an influencing factor in that in some way without screaming too loudly.”