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Checking in on women’s soccer spring season

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After beating Johns Hopkins in the Centennial Conference finals to win the championship, the Swarthmore women’s soccer team look to work hard during their spring season in order to come back next fall and reclaim their title. Last year women’s soccer went 7-2-1 in Conferences, clutching the second place spot for playoffs. They then won the semifinals against Haverford 2-1 and continued on to the championship. The championship game, against first-place team Johns Hopkins, went into overtime and then shootouts. Senior goalie Sommer Denison was able to have an astounding ending to her final Conference Championship and earn game MVP by saving a pair of attempts during shootouts and helping her team clutch the championship. They then continued into the NCAA tournament, winning the first round against Susquehanna University but then losing to William Smith College. Their spring season is a condensed version of the fall, with 16 coached practices and one day of games. Women’s soccer hopes to make the most out of this short time before the end of the school year. The team also must make do without their seniors, who will soon graduate, as well as four out of five of their juniors, who are currently abroad. For women’s soccer players currently at Swat, the spring is used to improve their skills and enjoy playing soccer.

Women’s soccer is one of the most consistently successful athletic teams at Swarthmore, with a winning record for the past 10 years. While they have only won the Centennial Conference Championship in 2014 and 2017, they were E.C.A.C. South Champions in 2007, 2008, and 2009, where they did not surrender a single goal. They were also the N.S.C.A.A. All-Academic Team for 11 years in a row between 2005 and 2015. This year Marin McCoy ’19 was named a Scholar All-American. She was also named Inquirer Academic all area along with her teammates Yasmeen Namazie ’19 and Hannah Lichtenstein ’17. The spring season is a major contributor to the team’s success, as it is used to work together and improve their skills both as a team and individually.  Melissa Curran ’19 is the only junior currently not abroad. Her classmates, Amy Shmoys, Marin McCoy, Yasmeen Namazie, and Caroline Coats are currently enjoying their off-season in France, Cuba, and Ecuador. Curran described how the spring season helps prepare her team for the fall, even with most of the juniors currently abroad.

Spring season allows the team to really focus on things we needed to work on from our fall season, and it gives everyone a chance to individually improve their game,” said Curran.

For women’s soccer the fall season has a clear end goal in sight: to win the Conference Championship. But the spring season allows each individual member of the team to pick her own goal and improve before the fall season starts. Brittany Wiederhold ’20, a forward from Downingtown, Pa., elaborated on the benefits of the spring season.

Spring season is heavily focused on our own individual needs in order to prepare us for the upcoming season. When I say this, I mean our practices are very technical working on our touches and individual strengths. It’s also a really good time to adjust to playing without our graduating seniors and have those new positions and roles filled,” said Wiederhold.

The spring season allows underclassmen to step up into leadership positions. Women’s soccer already had their game day on April 10 against DII Kutztown University and DIII T.C.N.J., but even with playing both of these games the team relies on captains’ practices to help them stay competitive. With only 16 official practices and two games, captains practice is used as a time to play pickup games of either 3 v. 3 or 5 v. 5 depending on how many players show up. With most of their upperclassmen gone, current first and second-years get the opportunity to play in different positions and find new ways to work together. In addition to all of the hard work during their spring season, women’s soccer also uses their summer months to prepare for the spring season. Curran talked about how her team stays ready for the spring season over the summer.

Some people join soccer leagues or play with friends, others just practice their skill on their own, and we all make sure to stay in shape for our fitness test by following the fitness packet Coach and Erika send out for the summer.” For women’s soccer the spring season is a time used to improve their skills, have underclassmen step up into leadership roles, and get ready for another great season of soccer here at Swarthmore.

Athlete of the week: Sommer Denison

in Athlete of the Week/Sports by

Last weekend the Swarthmore Women’s Soccer team won their second Centennial Conference Championship in four years after beating 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins University. The Garnet held a 2-0 lead at the end of the first half, but Hopkins was able to tie the game up and send it to a penalty shootout, where the Garnet prevailed 3-1. Crucial in the win was goalkeeper Sommer Denison ʼ18, who made two big saves during penalty kicks for the Garnet to secure the win. Denison earned Centennial Conference tournament MVP honors for her performance. The Garnet move on to NCAA playoffs, and will face Susquehanna University on Nov. 11 in Geneva, New York.

Jack Corkery: What is your major, and what made you decide to pursue it?

Sommer Denison: I am an Economics and Psychology major. I chose Economics because I think it prepares me to work in business after college, and I chose Psychology because I really enjoyed the classes here at Swarthmore.

JC: What made you decide to attend Swarthmore?

SD: I am from California and wanted to attend college on the East coast, so that led me to look here. Also, Swarthmore is a great institution academically, and it worked out that I could also play soccer here, which meant it basically fit all parts of my checklist for a desired college.

JC: This is your first season in the net. What was the transition from field player to goalie like?

SD: It was definitely very different. It was almost like I was playing a new sport within the sport I had played my whole life! But, it was a lot of fun, and the coaches and Amy [Shmoys], the other goalie, made the transition a lot easier.

JC: Did you know that you would enter the game for penalty kicks before the championship game started?

SD: Yes, I did. Before our game against Haverford, Reba [Magier], our goalie coach, told me that I would be entering the game if it went to penalty kicks if I was up for it. I told her yes, and then it didn’t matter since we won in regulation. Then, against Johns Hopkins, once they tied the game up and we got to the second overtime I realized that I would probably be going in.

JC: What was the team morale like during the game after Johns Hopkins was able to tie the game back up?

SD: Surprisingly, we were still very positive even after we gave up the lead. I think we really showed grit and didn’t put our heads down, which is why we were able to pull out the victory in the end.

JC: What is the team’s outlook going forward as your team moves into the NCAA playoffs?

SD: There is definitely a positive energy that I think we are going to carry over from our finals victory into our first-round matchup. I think we are confident and that we are ready to play our game.

McCoy and Khanna Honored as All-Americans

in Fall/Women by
Marin McCoy '19 and Caroline Khanna '17 represent Swarthmore as All-Americans.
Marin McCoy ’19 and Caroline Khanna ’17 represent Swarthmore as All-Americans.

Among the many records broken this season by the Swarthmore women’s soccer team (18-3) was the selection of the program’s first All-Americans: freshman forward Marin McCoy ’19, and junior midfielder Caroline Khanna ’17.

Although most collegiate soccer players focus solely on soccer throughout their youth — playing on multiple year-round school teams, club teams, and state teams — McCoy was not one of these players. Rather, when she wasn’t excelling on her high school’s soccer pitch, McCoy engaged in a variety of activities, standing out in volleyball, basketball, and in the classroom. However, after becoming one of only two freshman in the nation to be awarded All-American and breaking Swarthmore’s program record for single-season points as a freshman, it is fair to say that McCoy chose the right sport.

In addition to noting that both McCoy and Khanna possess high soccer IQs and coachable personalities, head coach Todd Anckaitis remarked that McCoy was a standout player because of her “nose for the goal and her decision making in finishing either off the shot or as an assist.” Her strength, speed, and ability to shoot with both feet made her a dangerous player for defenders both across the conference and in the NCAA tournament.

When asked to what she attributed her success this season, McCoy automatically redirected the spotlight to her team.

“My teammates really motivated me to work hard. They’re what inspired me most, especially when our coach talked about the trajectory of the program from our seniors’ freshman year to now. Each year people have been getting more and more motivated and willing to put in extra work outside of the season,” responded McCoy.

Such impressive player development is especially applicable to Khanna, who, prior to receiving first-team all-Conference this year, had been awarded little recognition for her accomplishments. Shortly after receiving this award, she received all-region and then All-American.

Despite appreciating Khanna’s work ethic, notable persistence, and coachability when she was a high school recruit, Anckaitis remarked that she was not a standout player at the time. However, from the moment she began playing in college, she has only excelled.

When asked about Khanna’s development as a player, Anckaitis fondly commented, “From never making any team in her life before entering college to being an All-American in college in only her junior year — that’s impressive.”

Despite All-American being awarded to players for their personal success, Anckaitis remarked that McCoy and Khanna’s spectacular seasons could not have occurred without an equally spectacular team effort. Both McCoy and Khanna couldn’t agree more.

McCoy commented, “Scoring goals and getting points both start with the defenders and the mid-fielders. Sometimes it’s just tapping the ball in while all the work is done by other people. It was cool to get this award, but honestly, the success that we had as a program was more inspiring and compelling for me.”

Khanna humbly expressed similar sentiments, saying, “When the team has so much success, things like this are more likely to happen.”

While the success of the team as a whole certainly helped McCoy and Khanna excel as individuals, their successes would not have been possible without highly disciplined work ethics and extreme dedication to their sport.

“These two have developed some special qualities through hard work. They did it with a balanced priority and focus for all of their pursuits, and have found ways to become better and not just be the athlete that goes through the motions thinking they deserve something for doing so,” Anckaitis said. “They’ve earned it and not just by putting in more hours: they’ve put in better hours. They found a way to compete hard with their teammates every day in practice to create a winning mentality with the expectation that everyone else will do the same.”

Looking forward to next season, both Khanna and McCoy have even higher expectations both for themselves and the team as a whole. McCoy noted that while this experience exceeded her initial expectations for the team, she could not imagine settling for anything less in the future.

“Our goal now is to make it to the Final Four,” Khanna said. “That’s where we set the bar.”

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