According to its club sports handbook, the Swarthmore College athletics department currently recognizes eight groups as official club sports: men’s rugby, women’s rugby, men’s ultimate Frisbee, women’s ultimate Frisbee, men’s volleyball, men’s fencing, women’s fencing and men’s badminton, which is now defunct. Currently looking to join this group is the Swarthmore women’s soccer club, which received a charter earlier this year.
Despite this recognition from the Student Council, the group will not be able to be an officially recognized club before 2014; in accordance with guidelines laid out in the handbook, an athletic group must be active for a minimum of two years after being chartered before it can apply for club status. In the meantime, the group, which began practicing this week, has been working diligently to attract new members and become increasingly legitimate in the eyes of the administration.
Interestingly enough, the idea for the club was born from founder and senior Elliana Bisgaard-Church’s experience with ultimate Frisbee as a member of the Swarthmore Warmothers last fall. There, she met Alison Koziol ’15 and the two quickly discovered they shared soccer as a mutual interest.
“Alison and I had met playing ultimate Frisbee and we connected a great deal over the fact that soccer was our first love,” Bisgaard-Church said. “Unfortunately, and despite a lot of fun, Frisbee was not satisfying that soccer itch we both had, so throughout the Frisbee season I started thinking about why we have a men’s club team but no team for women.”
After the season, Bisgaard-Church began serious consideration of the issue and decided to gauge the potential interest of the student body in the formation of a women’s soccer club. After advertising in the Reserved Students Digest (RSD), which is received by all Swarthmore students twice a day, she learned that several others shared her interest in forming a group on campus, and with that in mind, she began to form a team.
“I was pleased to find that the process of creating a group is relatively easy; the most difficult part was making a specific budget for [the Student Budget Committee] and even then that was smooth with help all along the way,” Bisgaard-Church said.
“It was also difficult to start a team in the middle of the year when students have often already filled their extracurricular schedules,” she continued. “I worked hard, though, to make practices fun and get girls to come out, and, after our first successful and truly team-bonding scrimmage against Haverford, could tell that there indeed was a place for women’s club soccer at Swarthmore.”
Despite her tireless efforts, Bisgaard-Church will not be at the helm this year after a torn ACL she suffered at the end of last semester left her unable to play regularly. In her place will be Koziol and team captain Thera Naiman ’14, whom Bisgaard-Church approached due to her extensive commitment to the team in the spring.
Although it is a non-varsity group, the women’s club soccer team still seeks out high-level players and nearly all of its members have experience at the high school and competitive club levels. This desire for serious competition is also reflected in its schedule; this season, the club will face off against various Division I squads, including two teams, Villanova and the University of Delaware, which competed in the 2011 National Campus Championship Series (NCCS) National Soccer Championships.
As always, competition against Tri-Co rival Haverford College is also a highlight of the season. “We’re particularly excited about the Haverford game, given the long-standing tradition of friendly rivalry between the two schools,” Naiman said. “Like ours, Haverford’s team formed last year, and we are looking forward to watching our teams grow side by side.”
As a fledgling organization, it is always looking for new members, particularly those experienced in the sport, to join and help accelerate this growth. Now, the Swarthmore women’s soccer club begins its first season as it looks to combine a desire for intense competition with the more laid-back atmosphere of club sports. Although official recognition as a club sport will not come before 2014, the prospects look bright for a team committed to providing an alternative option to varsity athletics.