Hurley's stunning goal shines positive light on CGA women's soccer program

Coast Guard Academy's Madeleine Khoilian (7) reaches out to hug Claire Hurley after the former Waterford High School star scored on a stunning 40-yard free kick during the Bears' 2-0 win over UMass Dartmouth on Oct. 12 in New London. The goal earned national recognition and was featured among the top plays on ESPN. (Photo courtesy of Paul Duddy, Coast Guard Academy athletics)
Coast Guard Academy's Madeleine Khoilian (7) reaches out to hug Claire Hurley after the former Waterford High School star scored on a stunning 40-yard free kick during the Bears' 2-0 win over UMass Dartmouth on Oct. 12 in New London. The goal earned national recognition and was featured among the top plays on ESPN. (Photo courtesy of Paul Duddy, Coast Guard Academy athletics)

New London — Claire Hurley received a surprising text message in the days following her stunning 40-yard free kick goal.

It was from her cousin, Megan Millar, who lives in New York City.

"Holy crap, I'm eating oatmeal and I just saw your goal on ESPN," Millar wrote.

Hurley already had been informed by Coast Guard Academy women's soccer coach Susan Grant that the video had been picked up by ESPN. Her goal was ranked No. 5 on the espnW Top 10 plays.

But she had trouble believing it until her cousin reached out to her.

"I was like, what? There's no way," Hurley said of her reaction. "After that, I got a few more texts from friends and family to say congrats."

Hurley, a former all-state performer at Waterford High School, is enjoying a stellar sophomore season.

Hurley, a forward, leads the Bears (8-8) in goals with a career-best six to go with three assists. Coast Guard needs just one win in the last two regular-season games to set the program record for victories in a season.

She's on a scoring tear as of late, notching game-winners against Smith College and UMass Dartmouth earlier this month.

It was her second goal in a 2-0 win over UMass Dartmouth on Oct. 12 that lit up the social media world and ended up on ESPN.

Hurley, who takes the majority of free kicks for Coast Guard, deftly lifted a high arcing shot that sailed into the far right corner of the goal.

She figured from 40 yards, why not take a crack at the goal?

"I didn't think I could hit it that far," Hurley said. "When it went in, I didn't really believe that it happened. ... It was definitely the only time I've ever hit that shot and probably will be the only time. I don't think I'll ever hit a shot like that again."

Only one other time in her playing career she remembers having the same Holy Cow reaction — arms raised high, surprised look on her face — after scoring a goal.

It happened in the 2013 Class M championship game after she scored the game-winning goal on a 25-yard blast to lift Waterford to its first state title.

Since her high school days, Hurley has always taken set pieces, especially when in scoring range.

Hurley believes in her ability to score on those plays.

"A big thing with Claire is she's got confidence with the ball at her feet, especially this year getting some success and building that confidence," Grant said. "She's the type of person that you want taking that kick, you want that person who can step up and not over-think it and just crank it."

Just last week, Hurley struck again, scoring on a free kick after getting fouled just outside the box. She quickly stepped up and fired it into the upper left-hand corner against Emerson. Coast Guard went on to win 3-2 in overtime.

Hurley hopes to continue to score goals and bring positive attention to the Coast Guard women's soccer program. The word is getting out thanks to the video of her stunning goal.

"It's a really cool experience having not only that goal on ESPN but that's also pretty good coverage for the Coast Guard," she said. "Not a lot of people know about us here, so it's good on a couple different levels."

Grant added: "For sure, that puts us out there a little bit more. There's been a tremendous amount of outreach and pride from some of our alumni."

With the season winding down, the Bears are focusing on trying to qualify for the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference tournament for the first time since 2014.

After playing Albertus Magnus in non-conference action on Wednesday, they host NEWMAC foe Wheaton College in the regular-season finale on Saturday. They need to beat Wheaton or have Clark lose to qualify.

Regardless of what happens, the young Bears have something to build on. They're lose only three seniors.

"It gets us excited for the next three or four years," Grant said.

g.keefe@theday.com

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