BC Soccer Hall of Famer Mary Guarino: All She Needed was a Little Motivation

Mary and Alison with twins Liam and Rowan and triplets Stella, Declan, nd Reese

Mary and Alison with twins Liam and Rowan and triplets Stella, Declan, nd Reese

When high school senior Mary Guarino arrived at Storrs, Connecticut from Florida on a recruiting trip, the first thing she asked was “How far are we from Boston?”

Maybe that didn’t tip off the UConn soccer coaches that Mary had her heart set on Boston College. But it should have. Two years before, she’d visited Chestnut Hill with her father John, who’d grown up in Cambridge. Mary decided then that she wanted to go to Boston College. It was up to her to make it happen.

Mary had played soccer and many other sports – football and basketball with older brother John, track cross country and tennis in school. She was a star for the Plantation, Florida Eagles Club and had made it to the U.S. Olympic Development Player Pool. Mary also played for St. Thomas Aquinas High of Fort Lauderdale, national and state soccer champs and a renowned breeding ground for athletes.

She did make that enrollment at BC happen, although her final year of high school had many an anxious moment too. After verbally committing to Eagle coach Terez Biancardi but before signing a letter of intent, Mary blew out her right knee.

She had meniscus surgery and would need a brace for at least a year. The damaged knee could have changed everything, but Biancardi and BC didn’t flinch. Mary came north. It wasn’t an easy first year. She started in three games and didn’t score her only goal of the season until the fourteenth game. Being away from home was hard, and she’d never experienced a winter before.

“I didn’t think the game was all that different in college, except for the speed. I was the fastest player in high school. When I got to BC, I found that I wasn’t as fast as I thought. I also had to get used to playing with the brace. I also thought I’d be able to walk on top of snow,” she said.

Mary blossomed in sophomore year under new coach Alison Foley. She led the team in scoring with seven goals and one assist for 15 points. Foley pushed and challenged Mary constantly, demanding that she work harder. Mary was a fearless, aggressive striker. She also had an outstanding vertical leap and scored many headers during her career. But she needed better footwork and technical finesse for maneuvering in close quarters. Just crashing into opponents to get to the ball wasn’t enough.

“I attribute my biggest development to Alison Foley. She knew how to motivate me. I was on a full ride, life was good. But she said that ‘Mary’s got more than she’s showing us.’ She told me I wasn’t good enough, and that I’d have to do more if I was going to play here.

“That did it for me. You tell me something like that and I’m going to do everything in my power to prove you wrong. I needed help on technical things and finishing around the goal. That’s where I struggled early. Alison changed that whole aspect of my game,” said Mary.

Foley thus stepped into the role that Mary’s mother Margaret had played back in Florida. “My mother never let me settle for less, and always pushed me to do more than I thought I was capable of,” she recalls.

Mary usually played as a striker, but Foley sometimes put her at outside midfielder against better teams when BC needed a one-on-one defender. But it was in scoring that Mary Guarino made her mark. She had seven goals in both sophomore and junior years and scored 18 times as a senior. Now fourth on BC Soccer’s all-time scoring list with 33 goals and 23 assists for 87 points, she was first in that category at graduation.

In Mary’s final year the Eagles went 16-7-1 and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985. She scored a hat trick in the first round in a 4-1 win over Fairfield. Next up was a match at Harvard, who’d crushed the Eagles 4-0 during the season. The Harvard Crimson writers scoffed at the mismatch; BC had never beaten Harvard.

“We were such total underdogs. We played 99% defense and won 1-0,” she recounts of the victory that brought BC to the Sweet 16.

Mary scored the only goal of the Harvard game on a left-footed shot. She took a pass from Meghan Moore and beat defender Gina Foster, who’d been a teammate of Mary’s back in Fort Lauderdale.

The next game was a different story altogether. UConn eliminated the Eagles 5-0 and Mary, knee blown out again, was carried off the field at the 20-minute mark.

“But I’ll take that Harvard game any day,” she says.

After graduating, Mary signed a semipro deal and took a fling with the Boston Breakers. She also launched a 12-year coaching career, first as Foley’s assistant at BC. She then was assistant at Hobart William Smith and at Westchester University. She was also head coach of the West Chester United Under-16 team.

From 2005 to 2012, Mary was head coach at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Her teams had a 100% graduation rate and an overall 2.9 GPA. Then it was time to come home and take care of the kids.
Mary and partner Alison McWilliams gave been together for ten years. They are the proud parents of twins Liam and Rowan, age 3, and triplets Stella, Declan, and Reese, age 5. Mary and Alison recently announced a new venture, a BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Center in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Mary also teaches aquatic survival skills to children aged six months to six years. She is one of only five instructors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who are certified by Infant Swim Resource to instruct the youngsters how to swim and survive in the water.

“It’s been very rewarding, giving kids a skill that could save their life. Since I started about a year ago, I’ve already had two reports of lives being saved,” she says.

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