After an upsetting 1-0 loss to Franklin and Marshall College in the semifinal game of the Centennial Conference tournament last Friday, the Swarthmore women’s soccer team, including myself, have been crossing our fingers for three days straight.
This loss stripped our ability to automatically qualify for the biggest tournament in all Division III soccer, the NCAAs. The tournament consists of 64 teams: 42 slots coming from automatic qualifiers (collegiate programs who won their conference tournament) and the remaining 22 to be chosen by a selection committee, known as at-large bids. We hoped to be one of the 22 spots selected out of 430+ Division III women’s soccer teams.
As our coach, Todd Anckaitis, accurately wrote in an email, “GETTING AN AT-LARGE BID IS HARD!” However, despite these difficult odds, we clinched an at-large bid and are now preparing to travel to William Smith College in Geneva, NY. At William Smith, we hope to get past the first two rounds, defeating Bowdoin College on Saturday and the winner of William Smith-Nazareth University on Sunday. Before we embark on the NCAA journey, I want to reflect on the amazing season we had so far, highlighting why I believe this bid was so well deserved.
From a statistical standpoint, our team had an impressive season. A 12-3-2 overall record and 8-1-1 in-conference record earned us the No. 1 seed in the Centennial Conference, the No. 3 seed in the region, and a top-25 national ranking for five consecutive weeks.
We averaged 2.24 goals per game, outsourcing our opponents 38 to thirteen, with twelve different goal scorers on our roster. Not to mention, we had four Centennial Conference Players of the Week designations, each coming from a different class year. Out of the whole conference, Swarthmore has the most players in the top ten for the following categories: shots, goals, game-winning goals, assists, and shots-on-goal. Our season was quantitatively impressive. However, I believe what we did off the field makes our team incredibly special.
From the beginning of preseason in August, our team created a special bond that built our foundation for success. Our coach awarded the team a trip to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom after achieving our summer personal fitness goals. At Dorney, we definitely bonded as some of us endured the 205-foot drop on the infamous Steel Force roller coaster.
As our season continued, we had countless meals at Narples together, various dance sessions in the locker room, distracted study halls in Singer, and lots and lots and lots of sing-alongs. We spent fall break in Virginia, visiting Virginia Beach, the Mariners’ Museum, and, most importantly, Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
Throughout the past three months, our team has created an incredible bond and truly made my sophomore season memorable. I cannot express my gratitude toward these 26 women and how much they inspire me every day. I look forward to what we can accomplish together in NCAAs. Our future is bright, and I hope this article will encourage some to follow along on our journey, as they are now a bit more informed on what Swarthmore women’s soccer has been doing this 2023 season.