The date is September 10, 2000. The Penn women's soccer team is playing St. Joseph's in its first home game of the season. Michelyne Pinard, the first-year assistant coach for the Quakers, sits on the home bench and looks around at the players at Rhodes Field as a swarm of memories come flooding back. For a moment, she sees herself out there. She envisions herself proudly wearing Dartmouth colors, doing everything in her power to defeat the home Quakers. The warm rays of sunlight beat down on her. Suddenly, it is November 15, 1997. After a hard-fought game, Dartmouth has just fallen 1-0 to the Red and Blue in the semifinals of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament at Rhodes Field, knocking the Big Green out of postseason play. Pinard sits down, unable to comprehend what has just happened. The senior center midfielder has just played in her final collegiate soccer game. Rhodes Field has been the site of such disappointment; the Quakers the team that ended her dream, her lifelong passion. "When I walked out to the field originally, the memory that came to my mind was just sitting after the [ECAC] game, and I specifically remember where it was -- to the right of the away benches," Pinard recollected. "I was just sitting there and realizing that my collegiate soccer career was over, which was pretty hard to swallow for sure." Pinard, a two-sport varsity athlete, also ran into a wall in her ice hockey career. A year earlier, Pinard took her junior year off from the soccer team to try out for the 1998 United States Olympic ice hockey squad. Fifty women tried out -- Pinard was cut. She had worked so hard her entire life, but suddenly there was nowhere else to go athletically. "You spend your whole life working towards playing at the highest level possible and then all of a sudden there's nothing left," Pinard said. "So in some ways, you're proud that you made it and achieved your goal, but there's something definitely missing." Less than three years after her days at Dartmouth ended, Pinard is back in the Ivy League, ironically at the same place in which her soccer career ended -- the University of Pennsylvania. Her playing days are over, but her passion for soccer remains the same. Pinard is doing her best to spread her knowledge and love for the game to the women wearing Red and Blue. She is far from bitter over that sunny day back in 1997 when her days of playing soccer came to an end. In fact, she has come to accept it. "I think over the last two years being away from playing competitively, I've grown a bit and realized that, for me, coaching is the next step," Pinard said. "I miss playing a lot, but it's special to still be a part of their bigger picture -- Ivy League soccer -- which is special because of the history and the continuous rivalries that are established because every team is competitive." Ivy League soccer is one constant that Pinard continues to have in her life. However, it might be the only constant. Living in small towns all her life, Pinard is still trying to adjust to life in the big city. "When I'm walking down the street, I'm eager to make eye contact and say Ohi' to everyone I see," Pinard said. "But I'm kind of learning that that's not the way the city works. "That's probably the hardest part," she continued. "I'm surrounded by so many people and yet I don't know very many, whereas at Dartmouth, you walk across campus and you know pretty much everyone." The differences between Hanover, N.H., home of Dartmouth College, and West Philadelphia are quite extensive, even on the soccer field. "It's kind of different just being on the practice field," Pinard commented. "At Penn, you're surrounded by Route 76, and at Dartmouth you're surrounded by mountains." Despite these major differences in her lifestyle, Pinard loves her new opportunity and her new home. Dartmouth is just a distant memory, right? Wrong. This weekend, Pinard will return to Hanover when the Quakers square off against Dartmouth in a huge Ivy League game. This time, however, Pinard will sit on the visitors bench and will not be dressed in shinguards and high socks. Same school. Same field. Different job. One thing is for certain -- there will be plenty of emotion involved when she makes her long-awaited return. "It will be tough to detach myself from the emotional connections to Dartmouth," said Pinard, who will oppose some of the same players with whom she once played. "I had a great four years there, and soccer was an unbelievable experience." However, Pinard knows that she is part of a new program. "As much as I connect and relate to Dartmouth, I am part of the Penn program now, and I have connected with this team," she said. "It will be very fun to see the game and just sit back and say Owow,' because its pretty special to be a part of these two great programs in different ways."Comments powered by Disqus
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