Quiet but quick to grin, Hannah Griffiths Boston has the gentleness of an old soul. As she walks through campus, lugging her large accounting books with her, few would know she is a Division I soccer player. Five-foot-seven and slender to the point of looking fragile, she is not one to speak out or be at the center of attention.
In her first two seasons on Merlo Field, she was timid. She scored only two goals in two seasons, not fully meeting the expectations resting on her shoulders.
But something has changed. She now finds herself in the NCAA’s top 20 for goals scored in the season after scoring seven goals in just nine games.
“For me it is different because freshman year you just come in and are like, ‘Oh my god, am I going to be able to finish the runs?’” Griffiths Boston said. “And in sophomore year, people call it the sophomore slump, where you think you know it but you don't. But this year I think my mentality was, I just wanted to go out and kill it.”
For Griffiths Boston, it was a matter of finding her confidence both on and off the field.
On the field, she had to find her stride and mature into the difficulty of college level soccer during her first two seasons. And off the field, Griffiths Boston had to find herself. She came out as gay during her sophomore year.
“I think a big portion of it was learning my confidence and learning how to actually be confident,” Griffiths Boston said. “And I think that came from coming out and being more comfortable publicly with myself and that just gave me overall more confidence in every aspect of my life.”
She smiles when she explains that she first told her family she was gay, then her close friends and her team. Her close circle accepted her, sharing in her excitement and happiness in being able to talk openly about herself.
By being accepted by those closest to her, Griffiths Boston relaxed and was able to focus on soccer. She came into the 2016-17 season more confident and ready to win than ever before.
“Talking to her this summer was so fun because she already had an idea of what she wanted to do this season, of where she wanted to be,” junior midfielder Jess Kennedy said. “She wanted to be that forward that has six goals in seven games.”
Head women’s soccer coach Garrett Smith has noticed the change in Griffiths Boston as well.
“You talk about confidence and it's everything that she's done,” head coach Garrett Smith said. “It's nothing that the team has done for her or the coaching staff has done. This is all her hard work paying off.”
Although she was born in Portland, Griffiths Boston first began playing soccer when her family moved to New York when she was three. After they had moved back to Portland, she played club soccer with FC Portland.
“I never thought I would quit, I just thought I would always keep playing,” Griffiths Boston said.
She didn't think she would be able to go to the University of Portland because of the school’s high level of soccer, but Smith saw potential and recruited her. After she realized she could play at UP, it was the only place she wanted to be, leading her to commit at the end of her sophomore year.
Her first game as a Pilot wasn’t her first time on Merlo, however. Griffiths Boston attended UP soccer games and camps when she was young, looking up to Pilot soccer players before she ever became one herself.
“There is a photo of me and Garrett when I was eight coming to the little UP soccer camps actually,” Griffiths Boston said.
Growing up around the program Griffiths Boston realized how many expectations are placed on the shoulders of the women’s soccer players on The Bluff. Her class was ranked in the top 10 recruiting classes nationwide and she felt the pressure. When they made it to The Bluff, the team did not meet expectations. Her freshman and sophomore seasons, the Pilots did not make it to playoffs, which was unusual for Portland.
The disappointment rang heavy throughout the program. But that disappointment has inspired determination to make the playoffs this season.
“I think having these two years of being so disappointed we have this hunger now where that is our main goal,” Griffiths Boston said. “That is what we want to do and I believe we are going to do it this year.”
With the hunger to come out and win, Griffiths Boston has become the integral player the Pilots need to meet expectations this year.
“She will continue to be Hannah but I also think the team will rise up with her in a way that is going to be super good for our team,” Kennedy said.
The goal for Griffiths Boston? Continue this streak and find the back of the net as many times as she can.
Now, when she steps on the field she is not scared. She is not timid. And she is not willing to lose. Her gentleness turns into power, her quietness into determination.