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All in the family we are wes - feature vI

From the side yard at their childhood home, to Jackson Field at Wesleyan University, the soccer roots run deep in the Devanny family. What began as two parents getting their kids involved in sports transpired into all four Devanny children playing collegiate soccer.

Jennifer and Scott Devanny both played varsity soccer through high school, so it was no surprise that when their eldest son Evan was old enough, he began playing the sport as well. Before long, Trevor joined his older brother, with twins Grace and Liam following soon after.

Jennifer & Scott Devanny

With all four kids playing, Scott had no hesitation in deciding to coach all of them. It could have been hectic juggling four different schedules, but the Devanny’s were helped by a league that was cognizant of the family’s commitment to playing. Because of Trevor’s age, he was able to play up with Evan and down with Liam, while Grace was welcome on the boys’ team, too. The league also made a conscious effort to schedule fields and games in a way that made it possible for Scott to coach, sometimes as many as three teams at once, and for Jennifer to be on the sidelines of every game.

Jennifer recalls, “We decided early on that if we are a family, we are also a family on the soccer field.”
Top to bottom: Grace, Liam & Trevor

This meant the Devanny’s had a rule that if one of the siblings was playing, everyone would attend the game, unless they had another game at the same time. For years, all four kids would be carted around to each others’ practices, sometimes observing from the sidelines and other times playing together.

Devanny's playing soccer through the years.

Their love of the game grew deeper over the years. With a net setup in the side yard of their Concord, New Hampshire home, the four Devanny siblings (and any friends who were around) would play whenever they had free time. It was here that Liam found his niche for goaltending, and Grace transformed into the tough player that she is today. As the youngest boy in the group, Liam was naturally stuck in net so that his two older brothers could practice on him. What might have seemed like punishment, quickly became something he not only loved, but was gifted at.

The games at home got intense over the years, including heated games of World Cup. Liam recalls, “I dove into the goalpost once when I was little. Lucky for me, my dad is an orthopedic surgeon, so he just bandaged me up right at home.”

Looking back, Grace recalls having to rapidly adapt to playing with the boys. Competitive by nature, she said, “Our side yard games were fierce, but that really helped initiate athleticism in all of us. Despite being six inches shorter and about 50 pounds lighter, they always treated me like I was one of the guys, which in return made me a much better player.”

As the oldest, Evan was the first to enter into the world of collegiate soccer. He competed for four years as a defender at Stonehill College, playing in all 69 games, while starting in 63 of those. After his time playing, he had the unique opportunity to coach Liam’s high school team for two years.

Evan recounts, “My favorite soccer memories are the two State Championships I got to see my brothers win in high school. In the 2015 title game, Trevor completely dominated the field , which made me very proud. Two years later, I had the privilege of coaching Liam, and it is a memory I will cherish forever. He was in one of those zones where I knew he was not letting a single goal in, and we ended up winning the title 1-0.”

The Devanny's pose after Liam's team won the State Championship.

When Trevor began applying to colleges, Wesleyan was not initially on his radar. Yet a current Wesleyan student and Concord High School graduate had come back to his high school and spoke about his experiences at Wesleyan. It was that serendipitous encounter that first put Wesleyan on Trevor’s radar. He decided almost on a whim to apply; he had not even had any contact with head coach Geoff Wheeler.

Once Trevor got in and stepped foot on campus, he immediately felt like Wesleyan was the perfect fit for him. He reached out to Coach Wheeler, only to be told that there was no indication that there were any spots left on the team. Finally, after Trevor played in front of Coach Wheeler in June heading into his freshman year, he was offered a spot.

“It was a whirlwind and a bit of a crazy mind shift,” stated Trevor. “When my team won the State Championship in high school, I thought I was hanging up my cleats for good. Time off really allowed me to realize how much I loved playing and would enjoy continuing my career. The physical component was difficult because I had already written off the chance of playing in college, so I had to get back into shape quickly.”

Liam’s journey to Wesleyan took a different path than his older brother. He was in the mix at Division I schools, but eventually decided he did not want to have to compete with five or more goalies for playing time. He ultimately whittled his decision down to Wesleyan and another NESCAC school, but felt that having the opportunity to play with his brother was too unique to pass up.

As close as the Devanny siblings were, Liam and Grace agreed to not choose a college based on the other person; they were extremely committed to finding the school that was the perfect fit individually, even if that meant attending different schools.

Grace was also looking at Division I institutions, but not as a soccer recruit. As one of the top track athletes in New Hampshire, she was very focused on continuing her track career. It was not until after her high school team lost in the State Quarterfinals her senior year that she decided to pursue Wesleyan. Her mom recalls, “She looked at me shortly after the game and said, ‘I am going to go to Wesleyan.’ I think she was torn between choosing track over soccer, but at Wesleyan she had the opportunity to do both. I will never forget when she went on a visit at a Division I school and an athlete said to her, ‘Go somewhere where you can do big things in your sport,’ and we all believed that she could do that here.”

When Liam arrived at Wesleyan, he was not sure how much time he would get on the field. He recalls, “During preseason, all of the goalies worked really hard, so it wasn’t clear who would earn that starting position. I felt that I really focused on even the smallest of details, and when I earned the starting spot in our first scrimmage I felt proud. Both Teddy Lowen and Chris Franklin are extremely good goalies, so it was only by the smallest of margins I earned that spot.”

Despite being teammates long before they attended Wesleyan, Trevor and Liam never had the opportunity to step foot on the field at the same time in high school, so Trevor’s senior year in 2019 was incredibly special for the both of them.

Right off the bat, both Trevor and Liam felt that they had an instant chemistry on the field. Trevor explained, “Early on, he would call my name, I would open up and he would immediately give me the ball without much communication. That was really cool.” The two had an innate trust in each other, something that a defender and goaltender need in order to be successful on the field. They credit that trust and chemistry with helping to solidify the defensive unit and kick off the year on the right foot. The Cardinals posted six shutouts over seven games in the month of September. Liam remembers, “I knew that the previous three seasons for Trevor and his teammates were rocky, so I really wanted to help turn things around. I was very happy about the way we started out the season.”

The chemistry between the two was clear to anyone watching the men’s team this year. Head coach Geoff Wheeler said, “A center back full of heart and a goalkeeper with no fear; they made for a great combination this fall. The fact that they were brothers was clear; one moment they could be shouting at each other and the next, all was as smooth as could be. The defense was led by Trevor, but it was anchored by Liam. I was fortunate to play with my twin brother in college, so to see these two brothers enjoy a year together was special.”

Grace found success in her first season at Wesleyan, too. “Going into the season, my only goal was to get playing time. There were so many talented players on our team, but I knew that if I was able to get on the field, I could show what I was capable of.” And she did exactly that.

She earned NESCAC Rookie of the Year and Second Team praise after concluding the year tied for first in the conference in goals (10) and tied for second in points (22). But the first-year did not attribute the team’s successes to her individual accomplishments. “Everything we do is as a team and not about the individual,” she said. “We have a very positive energy both on the field and on the bench, and we all get excited when someone does well. I loved being able to score and help the team, but even if I wasn’t on the field playing, I would still be excited to be here and grateful for the opportunity.”

Having three children playing soccer at the same institution has been about as convenient as it was when Scott was coaching all four kids back in the day. Both Jennifer and Scott have been able to get to every home game at Wesleyan, and to most of the away games, while Evan has even able to build time into his busy medical school schedule to cheer on his younger siblings. If you attended a soccer game this fall, you likely heard Scott coaching from the fan sideline and Jennifer shouting out encouraging words. Depending on who was playing, the other siblings were right there with their parents.

Jennifer & Scott watch as both Wesleyan soccer teams play at Amherst on side-by-side fields in 2019.

Grace explains the dynamic: “As an aggressive player, I get into a lot of tussles. Sometimes it isn’t my fault, but my dad is the first to say something [to referees] even if I don’t need defending. It helps that both of my parents know the game and played themselves, so they know how to support us from the sideline and give us constructive criticism when we need it.”

Despite having only one year together at the same school, Trevor, Grace, and Liam feel that the experience made their tightknit family even stronger. And while Trevor won’t be donning a red and black uniform come next fall, you can bet that the entire Devanny family will be on the sidelines for the next three years, cheering on Grace and Liam.

Written by: Ali Paquette

Credits:

Steve McLaughlin Photography, Ali Paquette, Devanny Family, Stonehill Athletics/Jan Volk