Women's Soccer Seniors Head Off Into Sunset
Oct. 21, 2005
Seniors Sailing Away
Millions of kids take to the field to play soccer when they are young. According to some projections as many as 40 million, but only a select few will end up playing at the collegiate level and less end up playing at the Division I level.
For six East Carolina seniors, Tracy FitzGerald, Kate Lowe, Melissa Penney, Ashley Stopa, Lindsi Troxler and Meghan McCallion their journey ends this year. Sunday Oct. 23 marks Senior Day for these young women, who came together from all across the country via a game that they have played since they were five. Playing a demanding sport like soccer while balancing school and the rest of life is a serious test of will, but these young women have risen to the challenge.
"It flew by, but it was an amazing experience," said Penney. "To have played with these seniors and this program, it was four years I'll really remember."
The team has had its ups and downs over the past four seasons. The seniors all agreed that the biggest highlights of their four years was the way that the team came together and closed out the 2004 season. The Pirates headed towards the end of the season needing to win four games to be eligible for the Conference USA Tournament.
When the going got tough the Pirates toughed it out winning three games at home as well as back-to-back double overtime victories on the road including an emotion-filled win at Cincinnati. The victory at Cincinnati sent the players storming on to the field and spurred the Pirates to close out the season against USF and move on to the post-season.
The seniors have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into their four years. A program does not replace a group like this, but instead moves on to another stage.
"I think any senior class is special," said head coach Rob Donnenwirth. "To go through four years has to be a big commitment on their part. They are a resilient group and we going to miss them."
One of the most resilient players on the team has been Ashley Stopa. She has had four knee surgeries in less than two years but kept working hard hoping to have a chance to contribute. This year she has been the starter at the midfield position. She has fought through the tough times and has shown her teammates as well as her coaches how much the team has meant to her.
"It's amazing to me, I had support from a lot of people which helped a lot," said Stopa. "I couldn't have done it without my trainers, my teammates and my family, especially my mom."
The players say that they will smile instead of cry as they end this chapter in their lives. None of them plan to allow finishing college to end their involvement in the game as each of them expect to be involved with the sport in the future.
"We had some amazing people come through the program," said Lowe. "When we were young and looking at the seniors we never thought we would be here."
These seniors most definitely rose to a high level. They will leave this year's freshmen a lofty example to follow. Meghan McCallion for instance has re-written the Pirate record books. She will leave the program as the all-time leader in points, points per game, goals, and goals per game. And while she has been able to put it in the net, she has also kept her eyes opened for teammates, which is why she is also second all-time in assists. Melissa Penney at press time was tied for eighth all-time in points and goals, while goalie Lindsi Troxler ranks fifth all-time in saves.
The countless hours of practice that are put in during a career all boil down to one thing, what was it worth in the end. As this season concludes and the Pirates sail off into the sunset, they will be able to look back at four years and know that their hard work paid of in more ways than one. Accomplishments on the field of play will finish second to the overall experience of getting to know each other, as this group has become a family. The chance to see new places and be a student-athlete has paid off and will continue to pay dividends in the future as the players embark on life with gained perspective and knowledge of themselves and the world.
"It has made me a better person," said McCallion "I think the friendships I've made will be long lasting."