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Swarthmore Women’s Soccer

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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