ith a goal already to his name and the score tied at a goal apiece in the 83rd minute, Stefan Sigurdarson pulled the ball out of the 18-yard box and turned to face an approaching Wake Forest defender. Faking an attempt to beat the defender left with a quick step over, he instead pushed a pass down the line to midfielder Tyshawn Rose, who looped a high cross into the box that found the head of Adam French.
French smoothly put the ball right on the feet of Michael Suski, who split a pair of Wake defenders with a quick turn at the top of the box and laid the ball off to an open Sigurdarson. Ignoring a Wake defender flying at him, Sigurdarson patiently waited for the ball to reach his left foot and blasted a shot into the top of the net.
The goal was a season- and program-defining moment for the Eagles. As the top-ranked team in the nation at the beginning of the 2019 season and a perennial ACC superpower, the Demon Deacons had not lost to Boston College since 2012. The upset victory was a sign of greater things to come for the Eagles in 2019, as BC stormed to a 9-6-3 record and its first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2016.
“I think I had the feeling that maybe in the past, BC felt like they had a mindset of a smaller school program, where you didn’t feel like you could go out and take points off the big teams,” said midfielder Amos Shapiro-Thompson. “I think last year we really started to shift that and be like, no, we can compete toe-to-toe with UVA, with Wake.”
As much as the game was a turning point for the Eagles as a whole, it may have been even more for Sigurdarson in his stellar freshman season. While he had started all of the Eagles’ nine games prior to the Wake contest and bagged a goal and a pair of assists, his heroics against the Deacs foretold his prolific performances throughout the second half of the season.
“Wake Forest was the turning point of my season,” Sigurdarson said. “I thought my season was going pretty slow before the Wake Forest game, and then it started picking up after that one.
“Wake Forest was the turning point of my season. I thought my season was going pretty slow before the Wake Forest game, and then it started picking up after that one." Stefan Sigurdarson
He scored in the Eagles’ next game against Northeastern—a 3-0 win for BC—put in two more against Syracuse, and another against both Notre Dame and Yale, the latter of which was in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. All in all, he finished his first campaign on the Heights with a team-leading eight goals and tied for the team lead with four assists. He was named to both the ACC Third Team and the ACC All-Freshman Team.
As the linchpin in the Eagles’ resurgent season, Sigurdarson proved that big changes can come around quickly with the right people, earning him the title of The Heights’ 2019-20 Breakout Male Athlete of the Year.
espite his smooth adjustment to playing in Chestnut Hill, Sigurdarson was unsure until late in his high school career about whether he was even going to play college soccer in the United States or stay in his home country of Iceland. He attributed his initial push into the U.S. recruitment process to his father, who played soccer at Columbia.
“My dad said I should look into it and just go through the whole process and see if I wanted to go,” Sigurdarson said. “If not, I could go to college here in Iceland, but pretty much instantly, without admitting it, I was instantly like, ‘Okay I want to go to college, I want to try something different.’”
BC was on his radar early on in his process, but his interest in the Eagles spiked after then-assistant coach Bob Thompson attended a showcase game in Iceland that Sigurdarson played in. Thompson was named the Eagles’ new head coach in February after long-time head coach Ed Kelly retired.
In the end, his choice came down to Northwestern or BC. Sigurdarson said the much shorter flight from Iceland to Boston was a big factor in his decision, as it makes it much easier for his parents to attend some of BC’s games.
When asked what his favorite moment of the season was, he quickly picked out the Wake Forest game.
“Not only because of the game, but the fact that was the first game my parents were at, they came out and watched,” Sigurdarson said. “Straight when the whistle blew I ran up into the stands to my parents, so that was definitely a very very special moment.”
igurdarson has also had some European playing experience, which has been a massive boon for the Eagles. He played for the Icelandic Under-17 National Team and the Icelandic club Breidablik prior to coming to BC, and he will continue to play for the club during his time away from campus. Even though Breidablik plays in the top flight of Icelandic football, the NCAA still permits student-athletes to play in the league, as it is semi-professional.
The Icelandic league plays in the spring and summer, so Sigurdarson came into the fall season with a full slate of games underneath his belt, an advantage against American players who are often unable to get game action during the summer months.
Sigurdarson is joined by a number of other international players on the Eagles. Sophomore midfielder Kristofer Konradsson and senior back Heidar Aegisson are also from Iceland, and BC’s roster also features players from Germany, Italy, and Croatia. Others, such as Shapiro-Thompson, are from the United States but played in Europe before returning stateside.
“It’s massive,” Shapiro-Thompson said, speaking on how much it has helped BC to have players with international experience. “It’s impossible to overstate it, because it’s just a completely different mindset as far as professionalism and mentality in Europe as far as how seriously people take it.”
“It’s impossible to overstate it, because it’s just a completely different mindset as far as professionalism and mentality in Europe as far as how seriously people take it." Amos Shapiro-Thompson
Though Shapiro-Thompson never faced Sigurdarson when they were playing in Europe, Breidablik played against Legia Warsaw just months before Shapiro-Thompson joined the Polish side. The overlap before their freshman season gave him an idea of the level of competition that Sigurdarson had played at and meant that his immediate success at BC was not altogether surprising.
“I actually ended up being aware that he played for his club Breidablik in Iceland against all of my teammates like six months before, so I knew the level was very high, so I certainly had some expectations about him,” Shapiro-Thompson said.
Shapiro-Thompson had a stellar freshman season in his own right, collecting four goals and an assist and joining Sigurdarson on the ACC All-Freshman Team. The two quickly formed a deadly partnership on the field, and Shapiro-Thompson attributes their chemistry to a shared vision for the team.
“Our connection was born out of our mutual respect for each other on and off the field, and how motivated we both were to try to do our best for the team,” Shapiro-Thompson said. “Just to see how seriously he took it and how personally he took losing or performing badly in the same way that I do.”
Their connection continues off the field as well. The two will be suitemates next year, and Sigurdarson joined Shapiro-Thompson for Thanksgiving last year at his home in western Massachusetts.
The two are joined in a stellar freshman class by several other key contributors for the Eagles. Center back Victor Souza was one of two Eagles to play every minute of last year’s season, and he was also named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. Midfielder Michael Suski scored four goals on the season, adding four assists as well to tie Sigurdarson for the team lead.
Despite the success that all four found so early in their careers on the Heights, Shapiro-Thompson remarked that none of them were aware of how special their class would be.
“We didn’t have an idea, we really didn’t, but it definitely became pretty clear once we got to campus,” Shapiro-Thompson said. “We had a weird mix, a very varied recruiting class of guys from really different backgrounds, but that was a special group of young guys.”
No matter how it came together, the immediate success of the young core bodes well for the Eagles going forward. For Sigurdarson, the team’s aim for next season is simple.
“I think everyone has the goal of making it to the NCAA tournament again,” he said. “My personal goal is to make it further than we did.”
Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Senior Staff
Images by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor and Courtesy of Stefan Sigurdarson