Masters alumna Sam Coffey prepares for pro soccer debut


Portland Thorns

Sam Coffey trains in practice for the Portland Thorns. She was drafted by the Thorns in 2021, but chose to stay at Penn State University for an additional year before joining the team at the beginning of 2022.

Ethan Schlapp, Lead Sports Editor

When Masters alumna Sam Coffey’s (‘17) parents signed her up for a local American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) team as a four or five-year old, she had no idea where the game would take her. Almost twenty years removed from her time spent wearing the pink jerseys of the Hedgehogs, she finds herself as a second-round draft pick for one of the top teams in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League). 

While much has changed for the star midfielder over the course of her career, one thing has remained constant: her passion for the sport. It’s what motivated her to become a professional soccer player and has kept her coming back ever since she first stepped foot on the pitch.

“I always have loved [soccer]. And so that’s what’s led me to this point,” Coffey said. “It’s just the love of the game and having so much fun when I’m out there.”

At Masters, Coffey served as captain of the girls varsity team for two years and helped lead her team to the Fairchester Athletic Association (FAA) semi-finals before committing to play soccer collegiately at Boston College. Coffey fondly reminisced on her high school playing days as some of her favorite moments in her soccer career.

“And I think just my favorite memories of playing at Masters are really just focusing on having fun while playing,” she said. “Because I think at that high school age you’re getting recruited and at the time I was going to a lot of youth national team camps and there was just a lot of pressure, but when I was just out there with the team, with my girls, my best friends, we were just playing and it was so fun.”

After playing at Boston College for two years and securing a handful of awards and accolades, including being named ACC Midfielder of the Year in 2018, Coffey transferred to Penn State University for her final two years of eligibility. In her interview with Tower, she spoke about the reasoning behind her transfer.

“Again, I’m so thankful for the time and the people that I met at BC, but ultimately it just wasn’t the best fit, specifically just from a culture standpoint and a longing to grow,” Coffey said. “I just felt like I needed to be just a little bit pushed more and challenged more and just be in a culture where I was going to be sharpened every day.” After entering the portal, Penn State’s head coach Erica Dambach was one of the first to reach out to her, leading to her eventual commitment soon after. At Penn State, Coffey was instrumental in leading her team to the Big Ten Championship in 2019, scoring a penalty kick in the final against Michigan University.

Last year, after the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) granted student-athletes another year of eligibility, Coffey decided not to enter her name in the 2021 NWSL draft because she was uncertain about her future.

“I didn’t enter the draft because I did want that freedom to have the option [to stay at Penn State]. If you entered your name in the draft, you had to leave at the end of that spring season, and I didn’t know if I wanted to do that or not, so I didn’t enter,” she said. “I only found out a couple days before that I would even be in it; I didn’t know that that was a thing,” she continued.

Nonetheless, Coffey was selected twelfth overall by the Portland Thorns in the 2021 NWSL draft, which she describes as a “wild experience.” Still, after consulting with family and coaches, Coffey decided that it would better serve her to stay at Penn State for that extra year so that she wouldn’t regret not taking advantage of available time there and so that she could improve her skills. Looking back, Coffey is satisfied with her decision.

“I grew so much [during] that last year at Penn State and I wouldn’t have changed that decision for the world and it’s ultimately set me up to be really ready to be [in Portland] right now,” she said. “It was tough to kind of put that [professional soccer] dream on hold for a little bit, but I have no regrets when it comes to that decision and I’m so glad to be here now and to have truly done and exhausted all of my time at Penn State because I don’t think I could have left without doing that.”

After arriving in Portland in mid-January to begin training for the season, Coffey has been settling into all of the changes in her life. From making connections with her new teammates to discovering new restaurants (including a New York-style bagel place) Coffey is excited about where the game has brought her.

“I’ve never had this much fun playing soccer before. I just am enjoying every second I’m out there learning from the best, playing with the best, playing with World Cup champions, playing with FIFA World players of the year,” Coffey said. “I’m just taking it all in stride, learning as I go, just trying to be a sponge in that regard and learning from the people who have paved the way for me and who have more experience. But I am loving it out here and this is a really special team and a really special club and I’m just honored to be a part of it,” she later added.

“I’m just taking it all in stride, learning as I go, just trying to be a sponge in that regard and learning from the people who have paved the way for me and who have more experience. But I am loving it out here and this is a really special team and a really special club and I’m just honored to be a part of it.”

— Sam Coffey '17

It’s been a long journey for Coffey from the first time she tried on cleats and shinguards, and while there have been numerous ups and downs along the way, she spoke on what has allowed her to reach this height of success.

“I have a very, very strong faith and so I’m not going to take credit for any of it; if I’m giving you the honest truth, it’s the grace of God,” Coffey said. “But with that, I think there’s no secret formula; like there is no ‘I eat vegetables at 7 a.m. and then I go and I watch film and I work all day.’ I’ve always tried to be the hardest-working person in the room. That’s been my foundation and my fallback. If nothing else, I want to work the hardest and just give my all to anything I’m setting myself out to do.”