Connecticut College: 3. Swarthmore: 1.
Last Saturday, the Swarthmore women’s soccer team’s magical season came to a difficult end. After controlling most of the game, Swarthmore conceded a goal in the 84th minute to break the 1-1 tie and then another goal in the 89th minute to seal the Connecticut College victory.
However, though this loss knocked the Garnet out of the NCAA Division III tournament, the season can be considered a resounding success.
Defender Elyse Tierney ’15 noted, “We said at the beginning of the year that we were going to beat Hopkins and we were going to win conferences and we did. We went to NCAAs and that had never been done before. Everything that we had been working for [during these] four years finally happened and that felt amazing.”
After making the playoffs two out of the last three years, Swarthmore (14-7) finally made the leap to elite. They captured their first Centennial Conference championship in school history and on top of that, with wins over ranked opponents Dickinson (#25), Gettysburg (#19) and most notably Johns Hopkins (#8), Swarthmore made it clear that they will be a team to beat for many years to come.
However, if Swarthmore’s going to make it back to the NCAAs, they will have to do it without starters Emma Sindelar, Elyse Tierney and Ellen Bachmannhuff, as well as key reserves Rehana Omardeen, Julia Murphy and Amy DiPierro, all of whom will graduate in the spring.
Tierney believes that it is inevitable that people will step up and fill their shoes.
“One of the best things about the team this year was that we had such a deep bench,” she said. “That was one of the best things about the end of season play was that we were able to sub people in when people got hurt … and I wasn’t worried about the subs coming in.” She went on to say, “I feel very positively about the next years. I think the team is going to be very strong and I am hoping that having [accomplished what we did] this year that they will continue to do it next year and get even farther.”
Sindelar, the owner of the most goals, assists and points in Swarthmore history, amended Tierney’s sentiments. She said, “I hope we left them with some kind of higher expectation about what we can do and where we want to be in the next coming years. And also [I hope we left them] with a tradition of community, family and unity.”
The program’s emphasis on these values manifested itself during the home stretch of the season. Many alumni attended the senior game (at home versus Haverford), the three games in the conference tournament, and the NCAA tournament game. This influx of support made it clear that the bond of being on the team transcends graduation; it brings alums back and it keeps them involved with the development and well-being of the program as a whole.
Sindelar attributed some of her class’s leadership skills and the team’s overall success to her former teammates: “We led the team and we were seniors on the team the way we were because of the way we saw them do it. We learned from them how to play on the team, how to be on the team [and] how to play in the conference. And to have them there for us for the good moments (last weekend) and for the sadder moments (Saturday) was great.”
Although next season Sindelar and Tierney will no longer be on the team, the torch will be passed to a strong group of juniors including goaltender Reba Magier, midfielder Melissa Trofa and defender Amanda Bosworth, all of whom started at least twenty games this season. Next season, these players will naturally obtain the responsibility carried with the senior title. However, for someone like Magier, the starting goaltender since her freshman year and the MVP of the 2014 Centennial Conference tournament, being a senior should be like any other year.
Magier said, “I feel like I’ve always had to step up into a role even as an underclassman. Maybe people will listen to me more as a senior, but there’s no difference in the fact that I’m a senior. I think people will respect me the same as they always have.”
Even if her teammates might respect her close to the same amount, with an MVP trophy on her mantle, the league will have surely taken notice.
The current seniors will leave Swarthmore with a record-breaking legacy and an incredibly influential season. Sindelar put it nicely: “We’ve had our turn and now its time for the underclassmen to get the chance to do the same and make their mark. Hopefully we’ve set a good example of how to do that.”
As evidenced by the new piece of hardware in the mantle, the example set by the seniors surely has been a good one.