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Junior forward Mia Shenk (left) learned to embrace competition while growing up playing soccer with her three siblings.

Credit: Son Nguyen

The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down for an interview with Penn women's soccer junior Mia Shenk. Here's what she had to say about her experience with the team, her time at Penn, and life overall.

1. Can you introduce yourself?

I am from Woodside, Calif. which is Northern California, and I'm a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. I'm an Econ major and I'm trying to figure out my minor program. Right now, I am leaning towards actually triple minoring, so doing Legal Studies in history, doing economic policy as a minor and then doing law and society as a third minor. For soccer, I am a forward. I have played forward my whole life.

2. When did you start playing soccer, and why? 

I started playing soccer when I was around the age of four or five. My older sister and I would always have a fun time playing together, especially in high school. My dad also played soccer at USC, and it was always a great time when he and I would play together. I have always been super competitive and love sports, and that’s how I got into it, and then I never got out of it.

3. How did you develop your competitive edge?

It has always just been kind of a part of my personality, but I think also growing up, I have my older sister and I also have two younger siblings and the four of us are all five years apart [total]. We have always done everything together, even playing in the backyard and competing against each other. Pushing each other to be the best versions of ourselves possible has definitely motivated me and driven me to always want to beat out my siblings, and that’s where I think my competitiveness comes from.

4. Did you ever suffer any major injuries from soccer?

In my junior year of high school, I tore my ACL during soccer season, but I did not know it was actually torn, so I continued to play on it. For three months, whenever I went to the doctor because my knee hurt, they said that there was not major injury. However, when I finally got an MRI, they found out that my ACL was torn, and my meniscus was partially gone too. I was out from soccer for a year, which was a struggle then, because it is during the time you are preparing for recruitment and soccer in college. But I believe that I was strongly motivated from the injury to go out and continue to be the best player that I could be.

5. Why did you choose to play soccer at Penn? Do you like your decision?

The academics combined with athletics was kind of an unparalleled experience for me and unparalleled opportunity that I had. I was super excited when I was given the opportunity and I haven't regretted it since.

6. What has your experience playing soccer at Penn been like? 

I have definitely learned a lot soccer-wise, not only just growing myself as a soccer player and an athlete, but also like all the other things and all the other lessons that come along with it, like time management with schoolwork and practice, being on time, and being respectful.

7. How has your team coped with the pandemic? 

We have definitely been staying in contact. We have our group chats, and we try to stay as connected as possible. We also have been having like official team meetings about twice a week where we talk soccer strategy or we just kind of chat and check in and see how everyone is doing. We are all still super motivated. We are super excited and very hopeful and optimistic about having a season in the spring.

8. One thing you miss about not playing soccer right now?

I definitely miss just being a part of the team, and having a crew wherever I go, whether it's walking down to practice after being in the locker room or going after practice and getting food. Just always being together and having that sense of a really close and tight knit friendship and a close and tight knit team is definitely something that I have missed.

9. What is your favorite Penn soccer memory? 

It would definitely be during my freshman year at Penn in our game against Brown, which was the last game or the second-to-last game before the end of the season. Basically, how we positioned ourselves during the season was if we won that game then we had secured at least a share of the Ivy title. We were up 1-0, it was getting really close, and then I actually ended up scoring and then it was a done deal.

10. Do you believe that your team has a chance of winning the Ivy League title during your next few years here?

Yeah, definitely. I always think that it is always up to us. I think we try to focus on having things in our control and having the mentality that we can do anything that we put our mind to. So, I think that it is definitely a possibility. I know we had a really great team last year and we did not do as well as we had hoped, but we have a lot of the same girls and we have a lot of great freshmen who will definitely contribute to the team.

11. Do you have any pregame rituals? 

We always have a team meal and then we all walk down to the locker room as a team before the game, and we are always blasting music to get us excited for the game. Getting amped up and getting excited for the game that definitely puts me in the right competitive mindset and really gets me geared into the game.

12. Do you have a favorite professional player or team?

I don't have a favorite outright team or player, necessarily. I do love watching all kinds of teams, especially the U.S. Women’s National Team. I am also a huge Golden State Warriors fan.

13. Did you pick up any new hobbies during quarantine?

I have been taking up a lot of home improvement projects with my family, such as renovating my bathroom by taking out and replacing tiles and painting the walls there and in my room. I find that fun to do. I also have been baking and cooking a lot because now I have all the time in the world to do that.

14. If you had 24 hours to do whatever you wanted in Philadelphia, what would you do? 

I would definitely go to the Reading Terminal Market. I really enjoy the vibe with all the little shops and store owners down there. I would also make sure to go to Rittenhouse Square, where all of my favorite restaurants and shops are. I also would love to just walk along the Delaware River, which is something I enjoy doing in my free time.

15. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? 

I would say, Italy, for sure. The coast of Italy is so beautiful. We have been to Europe one other time and it was like the best family vacation, and I think I would love being near the ocean and beach there. Italy is definitely next on my list for a dream vacation.