Five years later: the story of JMU women’s soccer’s Ginger Deel | Sports

Five years later: the story of JMU women’s soccer’s Ginger Deel | Sports

In her fifth year with JMU women’s soccer, Ginger Deel has transformed from a last-minute recruit to a household name for the team. Her growth as both a player and person is present in all facets of her game and as a role model to underclassmen, head coach Joshua Walters said.

Originally committed to the University of San Diego, JMU wasn’t even a thought for Deel. That was until the coach for the Toreros was let go, after which Deel reopened her recruitment. With her parents being from Charlottesville, Virginia, the Deels looked to U. Va. first, however, the Cavaliers didn’t have a spot. Next, Deel went to a camp at JMU, received an offer from David Lombardo, then head coach, and joined the Dukes that fall. 

 “[Committing to JMU] was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Deel said. “[David Lombardo] saw me only at a one-day camp, and he just gave me that chance … I’m forever grateful for him doing that.”

Finding a home at JMU required a tough adjustment from the West Coast, Deel said — a rough preseason shook her confidence as she started her college career. 

“I remember walking into preseason, and I hated it,” Deel said. “I just remember [sitting] on the dorm steps thinking I was the worst player on the team. All my confidence was gone, and [Lombardo] kind of saw something in me that I didn’t see. He would bring me into his office and remind me why I’m here.”

Deel went on to earn CAA All-Rookie team honors her freshman year, netting four goals and an assist in eight starts, with three of her goals being game-winners. Walters took over the team in 2018 — Deel’s sophomore season — and attested to her all-around improvement as a forward.

“When I first got here … she was a player that was good at getting into the center of the box to score [while] someone else would make the game for her,” Walters said. “She’s now a complete player — she can do it herself. She can beat people off the dribble; she can hit shots from range, and now, she can create so much on her own.”

The ability to expand her skillset has been vital to Deel’s rise to a contributing starter for JMU, Walters said. Deel has garnered All-CAA honors in the past three seasons, earning first team in 2018, third team in 2019 and second team in 2020-21.

Another person who’s been able to watch Deel broaden her skillset is athletic trainer Leah Schoen. This past summer, Schoen said Deel chose to remain in Harrisonburg to train for the season.

“[Deel’s] always the first person at practice and the last one to leave,” Schoen said. “She stayed the whole summer and trained with our strength coach just to make sure she was fit enough and strong enough for this season.”

On top of the improvement on the field, Schoen noticed Deel’s growth as a teammate. She said she’s observed how Deel came to JMU as a reserved individual and is now someone the freshmen can learn from this fall.

“As a freshman, she was a little shy,” Schoen said. “Now [as] a fifth-year senior, she’s more of a role model for the younger girls on the team. As she’s grown, she’s become more confident, [and she’s] someone all the girls look up to.”

Deel is aware of how her confidence has grown over these five years. She said this confidence doesn’t win her games or score goals for her, but despite being older than most players, every matchup requires the same mindset.

“I feel like I have a lot more confidence now from when I was a freshman,” Deel said. “Now that I’m a fifth-year [player], I’m older than a lot of the players I’m going up against, [but] they put their shorts on the same way I do.”

Schoen said all of Deel’s accolades are matched with her kindness toward coaches and teammates. This includes Schoen, who said she sees Deel as someone who’s always looking to help out.

“She’s a tremendous person [and] an awesome role model,” Schoen said. “As an athletic trainer, if I ever need help with anything, she’s always there to help me with my [athletic training] bag, and she’s looking out for the freshmen.”

Walters also attested to Deel’s selflessness and how he views her as one of the leaders of the Dukes. In the four years he’s coached, Deel changed from just a forward to one of the main voices in the locker room he said.

“She is a leader by example,” Walters said. “She’s gone from someone who kind of focused on herself … now I can see her standing beside a player and impacting the younger players especially.”

As JMU begins CAA play, Deel said she hopes to continue to set an example for the underclassmen, in hopes that a new player will assume her role next year once she graduates. 

Contact Craig Mathias For more women’s soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on twitter @TheBreezeSports.

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