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Lauren Petite is one of 10 new members of Penn women's soccer, five of whom played with or against someone currently on the Quakers' roster.

Credit: Ilana Wurman

For just about everyone, college is about new experiences. A new city perhaps. New friends. New teachers.

And for athletes, a whole new team filled with unfamiliar faces.

After training with the same team throughout high school and developing a strong support system of friends, family and coaches, the transition to the collegiate level is understandably a difficult one for most athletes.

But luckily for a few of the girls on Penn women’s soccer, not every face on their new squad is unfamiliar.

In fact, five of the 10 team’s new players — including freshman forward and Ivy League Rookie of the Week Sasha Stephens — either played on the same club team as a current Penn teammate or played against one in club competition.

Although Stephens, a California native, didn’t play on the same club team as any of her current teammates, she did play against fellow rookie Californian Cami Nwokedi, which created a unique dynamic when the two finally joined forces for the Red and Blue.

“It’s actually kind of funny because she committed two days after I did,” Stephens said. “She had just moved to a new team that I played regularly in tournaments, so we finally met, and we instantly hit it off.”

Despite the pair’s fierce competition on the field — Stephens and Nwokedi both played forward for their rival squads — Stephens says she has been able to build a strong friendship off the field with Nwokedi that has carried over to Penn.

“It’s weird because she used to mark me during games, and now, she is playing forward with me, so it’s pretty cool to see that transition.”

Another freshman who has had an easier transition as a result of former club connection is Maddie Dawkins. A Philadelphia native, the young forward played on Continental FC Delco with fellow freshman Tori Klevan.

The two rookies, who both play forward for the Quakers, have been friends for some time now, so being able to continue playing together and seeing each other grow at the collegiate level has been a special experience.

“We have been great friends for a long time, so it was exciting [when we both committed to Penn],” Dawkins said. “I think we bring a great energy together because we really know how each other works, so we can push each other to our limits.”

Although not a freshman, Lauren Petite has also greatly benefited from the friendships she made on her club soccer team, Lamorinda United 95. Petite transferred from TCU after her freshman season, and as a new member of the Quakers, she has been reunited with her former club teammate, sophomore forward Farah Otero-Amad.

Petite believes that Otero-Amad’s reassurance ultimately played a big role in her decision to come to Penn. She also sees numerous similarities between her old club team and her new collegiate team that make her appreciate her new squad even more.

“To have someone that knows you and saw you grow and to be able to play with them in college is a really special thing,” Petite said. “The thing about my club that I cherished the most was the family aspect of it, and one of the reasons I actually chose Penn and this team was because I felt like the family dynamic was there as well.”

In fact, everyone who came in knowing someone from her younger playing days stressed how special it was to find a team where the camaraderie is so strong between everyone.

“We all feel like we knew each other before,” Stephens said.

And in a period of such turnover for their program, that bond is such a special and rare thing to find.

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