Roxbury’s Morgan Joyce enjoying life as a York College Spartan

Photo courtesy of York College Athletics

By Steve Sears

Former Roxbury Gaels soccer star, Morgan Joyce, has many times had to do battle against an opponent.

As a high school senior, Joyce was a First-team All-Morris County and All-NJAC American Conference selection, and after moving on to York College in Pennsylvania, started all the Spartan’s games as freshman and sophomore, leading head coach Kelly Wakeman’s defense to nine shutouts as a sophomore while playing a team high 1,867 minutes. The Spartans won 25 games, lost 12, and had four ties in those two seasons.

However, there is one opponent that challenges Joyce more than any other.

She explained. “Mental health is something I have always been very passionate about, and a main reason I chose to pursue a major in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience. I started following Morgan’s Message, a non-profit organization that works to end the stigma surrounding mental health in athletics.”

Morgan’s Message was founded after Morgan Rodgers, a Duke University lacrosse player, committed suicide in 2019 at the age of 22. Joyce and fellow York College athlete, Brianna “Bri” McKeown, chose to form a York College chapter of Morgan’s Message after Katie Meyer, the Stanford Cardinals women’s soccer goalkeeper, also committed suicide in 2022. 

Meyer’s death significantly hit home for Joyce, since she was a member of the collegiate soccer community and Joyce looked up to her after Stanford won the NCAA women’s soccer championship over the University of North Carolina, 5 – 4.

Joyce and McKeown and their chapter have been able to create a safe environment for York College athletes to share their stories.

Joyce said, “This organization is important because mental health in athletics has often been looked over, and with the rise of suicide in athletics, it is becoming a problem that I do not think we talk about enough. This is one of the many organizations working to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health in athletics.” 

Joyce started out playing club soccer at age eight for STA Soccer of Morris Plains. She said, “I had only positive experiences at STA. I am so grateful for the amazing coaches I had, the supportive teammates that I was able to play with, and the friendships that I was able to form. I cannot say enough positive things about STA, and thank the club for making me the player, leader, and person I am today.”

Joyce also sent a huge shoutout to her parents, MaryAnn and Edward, and her sister Kelsey for always supporting her and her athletic endeavors. She added, “That meant traveling all over the country for showcases and soccer camps and pushing me to be the best I can be.”

Joyce played soccer all four years at Roxbury High School, and her freshman season was the most successful. Head coach Justin Renna’s Gaels finished 16 – 2 that season, but the ledger ended bittersweetly in a scoreless tie against Northern Highlands in the final round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section I, Group III Tournament.

“We were led by a strong group of seniors who really took me under their wing my freshman year, which I was very thankful for since there were only a few freshmen to make varsity that year,” Joyce recalled. “During my freshman year I worked hard to earn time on the field, and kept a positive attitude throughout the season, even though I knew it would be hard to get the playing time I really wanted since we had such a strong senior class.”

Normally a midfielder or stalwart on defense, Joyce spent a lot of time that 2017 season playing forward, and found herself playing in the front line her sophomore through senior years. 

Joyce looks back fondly on her career as a Gael. “I really remember my junior and senior seasons being full of laughs and lots of goals. We had many games go into overtime where the golden goal was the winner, and I remember the games I would score the game winning goal and that would result in a dog pile with me at the bottom of it. It is games like that that I will always remember from my time at Roxbury.”

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