It’s (almost) the end of an era, but the seniors of Penn women's soccer aren't quite ready to say goodbye just yet.
The women’s season may still be at its beginning, but for the eight seniors, it means they have one last chance to achieve their goals: win the Ivy League Championship and make an impact in the program’s history.
The seniors — Abby Reed, Emily Sands, Emma Loving, Laura Hamilton, Kelsey Andrews, Megan Lloyd, Ann Manella and Kitty Qu — have been through ups and downs during their time at Penn. As freshmen, despite having secured their fair share of playing time and helped the team to nine wins, this year's seniors witnessed the team finish fourth in the Ivy League with a .500 record. The following year was even more challenging, as the Quakers were defeated eight times and only managed to place fifth among the Ancient Eight.
Last year, however, Penn had a near-perfect season. Out of their 16 games, the Red and Blue won 13 and only allowed their opponents to score five times. Led by impressive play from Sands, who netted eight goals, and Qu, who had the fourth-best save percentage in the nation, the team clinched a share of the conference title, but ultimately failed to secure their spot at the NCAA tournament after a tough loss to Princeton.
Despite the results on the field, the seniors see their chemistry as their most important achievement.
“Being part of this team is like having your little family on campus, especially after such a long time,” Hamilton said. “And it definitely helps on the field in terms of feedback. If I give anyone constructive feedback, they know I have their best interests in heart. We are very transparent, and we get genuinely happy when someone is doing well. It basically helps us become better athletes.”
The friendship has also made them a strong base for the team and helped them foster a strong team culture — especially considering the large size of their class.
“It’s really nice that there eight of us, because we all have different roles,” Reed said, “Whether it’s being the star player and starting every game or helping the bench get hyped up during games, each of us has their own unique spot.”
Additionally, the Quakers accredit their academic success and ability to manage their free time to the support they receive from their teammates. Even though they pursue different interests outside of the team and will be in different fields starting next fall, they are always there for each other.
Considering their tight schedule and lack of time during the summer, the seniors could feel they have a disadvantage; nonetheless, they believe their openness and communication are crucial.
“[I’ll be working in] consulting for Accenture, and recruiting was an interesting experience,” Hamilton said, “You have to miss practice to go to interviews and super days and it can be tricky to balance it, but all of us always want to make it up. Also, one of my teammates last year was super helpful. She would practice interviews with me and help me prepare, so I say that soccer also opens doors for us.”
As the oldest players on the team, the seniors now serve as role models for the younger Quakers, who often ask for advice and help both on and off the field. Therefore, they hope to pass along the friendship and the culture of transparency and collectivism they have created over the years.
However, that is not the only goal they share for their farewell season.
“We don’t care about stats. We always push ourselves to be better so that the team can be better,” Manella said, “We set goals in practices and then apply them in games, but honestly, all of us want to graduate with two rings. Last year we won the title, but we didn’t win outright, so we didn’t play in the [NCAA] Tournament. We hope to do it this year.”
“It’d be an awesome experience for the program, for all the younger girls moving forward in the coming years,” Hamilton added, “I’ve never witnessed a harder working group, and we’ll continue to work hard this year because that’s our ultimate goal.”
Only time will tell whether this goal will ultimately become a reality or not. That said, the results of the season will not take away from the legacy this senior class has produced for future athletes to follow.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.