ST.JOHN’S, Canada— Chicago Red Stars rookie Bianca St. Georges is no stranger to challenges on and off the pitch.
Eighteen months ago Chicago chose the Canadian defender 20th overall out of West Virginia University. The next day, an operation on her meniscus sidelined her for what would have been her debut season as a professional player.
Fast forward to this weekend and the St-Charles-Borommée native has a chance to put her injury challenges in the rear-view mirror by lifting the NWSL Challenge Cup.
dreamin' @HoustonDash @chiredstarsPR for the #NWSLChallengeCup Championship on Sunday pic.twitter.com/6uS90CFS9v— NWSL (@NWSL) July 24, 2020
As a self-proclaimed social butterfly, St. Georges admits she couldn’t have gotten here without her teammates, particularly under the strange circumstances her first few pro games have come.
“Knowing that we’re all in this together makes it so much better,” said the Red Stars rookie. “It’s really a team thing for me right now I don’t feel like I’m alone at all, I feel supported, especially after this last game, I’ve never felt more supported by my teammates they really showed they were proud of me and how far I’ve come.”
That pride came to life in the eighth minute of Chicago’s semi-final match against Sky Blue FC when it was St. Georges’ early goal that opened the scoring for the Red Stars, a tally that would prove critical in a 3-2 victory.
A @biancastgeorges goal: you LOVE to see it pic.twitter.com/Vw3t8sucQc— Chicago Red Stars (@chiredstarsPR) July 23, 2020
As a first-year player known more for her ability at the other end of the pitch, many were likely surprised to see her name on the score sheet, including St. Georges herself who claims nobody was more shocked to see the ball go in the back of the net than her.
“I cannot deny how surprised I was because in the replay it’s a little obvious,” she said with a chuckle. “But the best moment for me was when I turned around and seen all my teammates kind of realizing at the same time that I scored and jumping to me, l loved seeing the pictures of the aftermath following the goal because everybody was so happy for me and it was such a fun moment.”
“I couldn’t have expected to score in this tournament, especially as a defender you’re not expected to score, so surprised is the word but also it gives me a little boost to let me know ‘okay I can do this, I can give us this as well, I can be an impactful player,’ so seeing that I can be that type of player it’s extremely motivating.”
In the early goings of the competition, Chicago was struggling to find success and had to wait until their fourth and final qualification round match to pick up their first win, a 1-0 result over the host Utah Royals.
Bianca St-Georges helps Chicago Red Stars reach the NWSL semi-finals for the 6th year in a row.— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) July 19, 2020
After topping OL Reign in penalties in the quarters and besting Sky Blue in a five-goal semifinal thriller, the Red stars have found their form at just the right time, a fact which St. Georges states is far from coincidence.
“Honestly, we kind of expected this tournament to go this way,” said the former WVU Mountaineers captain. “The first three games were kind of like a preseason for us because that’s usually how it works, we have three preseason games and then you go into the regular season, so we really used our three first games wisely and got everybody playing time.”
“We were able to analyze our biggest strengths and weaknesses after those three games, and then we said ‘alright, it’s on now we’re in it to win the tournament’ and for once things go as planned, we get to the finals, but obviously we have this huge last step.”
Two days after Sunday’s final against the Houston Dash, St. Georges will celebrate her 23rd birthday in less than ideal circumstances with her family back home in Canada.
While her loved ones won’t be able to make the trip down south bearing gifts, a weekend victory would more than suffice as an early birthday present for the Quebec native.
“I would honestly take the win on Sunday over any gift, the best gift would be to spend my birthday with my family… but again I don’t care about gifts right now, I just want to win the championship, that’s all I’m asking for.”