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Freshman midfielder Mallory Lucas kicks the ball away from a Sony Brook player during the game at Rhodes Field on Sept. 11. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

For Penn women's soccer freshman midfielder Mallory Lucas, the phrase “family affair” holds a different meaning in the game.

Most athletes would name another athlete when asked, “Who is your biggest inspiration?” But Lucas finds the greatest influence to her soccer career in family. The Whitman, Mass. native doesn’t come from a family of soccer players, yet soccer was the sport that stuck. 

“I have just always liked running,” Lucas said. “So I ran cross country and track when I was in middle school and high school. But running without any purpose, really, wasn’t my thing. I'd rather be chasing a ball and trying to score a goal.”

Lucas started playing soccer very young, dribbling a ball across green fields at the age of five. 

“Neither of my parents played soccer, so I don’t really know how exactly I got into it,” Lucas said. “But I just know every time I put my cleats on, I just love the sport so much and it’s grown on me.”

Although her parents had no prior experience with the sport, Lucas always sourced their deepest support in both soccer and school. They instilled a “no-failure” mentality in Lucas, which she found most valuable through the toughest challenges of her soccer career.

“[Whether it be] to try and get a little bit faster, to maybe become a little bit quicker at a certain drill, or to get a shot on frame,” she said. “It could [also] be to learn something new in class every day or study a little bit extra to get that good grade on a test — they are always there to push me and support me no matter what.” 

One of Lucas’ said challenges occurred during spring of her junior year in high school. Tragedy struck when she sprained her lateral collateral ligament, strained her hamstring, and suffered a severe patella bone contusion.

Lucas still remembers how tough it was to watch from the sidelines and not be able to practice or play. But her optimism returned her to the field as a better player overall.

“Honestly, that challenge was truly beneficial, because when I [got] back, my love for the game was just reinforced,” Lucas said. “I feel like I was just happy out there on the field!”

Her renewed joy for the sport boosted her performance even further. Lucas sealed her high school career as her school’s all-time leading goal-scorer with multiple regional, state, and even national accolades to her name. 

Now wearing the Red and Blue, her college career has the potential to be accolade-filled as well.

Despite being with the program for only a few months so far, the freshman has already played 214 minutes and scored her first collegiate goal — the winning goal, for that matter — during the team’s first victory of the season against Lehigh on Sept. 4. Lucas has seen playing time in all but one match this season, sitting out against Maryland in the second game of the season.

Collegiate play obviously entails a faster-moving ball, more athletic players, and a quicker game pace. Yet Lucas persists with an optimistic outlook while adjusting to the higher level of play. 

“The girls that we play against are incredible, and it’s just so amazing to be out on the same field as some of these incredible players,” Lucas said. “But [the mentality is] still the same: compete to win.”

Being a new face on a new team, under a different coaching staff — many athletes find the challenge of figuring out where to fit in. Lucas' transition to the Red and Blue, though, has proved a relatively seamless continuation.

“I haven’t started many games, so I think my role has been to come in, keep the tempo up in the game, and keep the girls that are playing 90 minutes on their toes,” Lucas said. “I get so excited every time the coach says my name and I am able to go sub in.”

Support from within the program itself has also been building toward Lucas’ success.

“[Penn women’s soccer has] been everything I could have ever hoped for,” she said. “My teammates are just absolutely incredible. They are so supportive, they help me get better on and off the field; they’re honestly so great. The coaches are amazing, too. We had the coaching change, so I didn’t know what to expect coming in, but our coaches are great.”

Lucas also expressed high praise for the quad of captains on the team. She mentioned their upbeat attitude, team-bonding activities, and positive reinforcement as key factors to consistent motivation and mentality between her teammates.

Her current game-to-game objective has been to be as impactful as possible during play and optimizing her time on the field, while keeping her teammates motivated to play their best as well.

In the long run, Lucas hopes to leave a lasting impression on the Red and Blue’s women’s soccer program — whether it entails being on the field, or trying to volunteer off the field to connect further with the Philly community.

And of course, her goals include an aim toward claiming the Ivy League title.

Through a current 2-1-6 overall record for the Quakers, the team is keeping confident. Considering the circumstances (new coaching staff, new class of players, construction on Rhodes Field, etc.), it is no surprise Penn women’s soccer has faced a couple of kinks to iron out through this first half of the season.

“Considering we’ve won a couple of games, and the ties have been very [against] good teams, I think the future is looking upward and we’re just excited to compete in the Ivy League,” Lucas said.