Last seniors standing

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Alex Jensen, Sports editor

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Being an athlete for all four years in college is an impressive feat because it takes managing studies, athletics, work and life, which is no easy task. But for these four athletes it was more than just passion driving them; it was also their bond that kept them playing. Women’s soccer seniors Kyla Alvarenga Beech, Collete Sims, Shelby DeRocher and Emily Schump have been best friends since freshman year and roommates for the past three years.

“I think that at least for me it’s like, oh, if they’re still doing it [then] I’m going to still do it but since none of us quit I couldn’t quit,” Schump said about how their friendship helped her stay in the game.

The four became friends at the beginning of their freshman season. Sims said that it was funny because she and DeRocher were already good friends. And Schump and Alvarenga were also already good friends from playing club soccer together. But once the pairs met there was an almost immediate connection.

Their freshman recruiting class started out with 11 players but over the years it trickled down to the four of them. Sims chuckled at the fact that it somehow ended up being the four of them as the last seniors standing. The group was head coach Cole McCool’s first freshman class.

But the roads were not easy for the last standing seniors. As the seasons progressed Alvarenga Beech, Sims and Schump’s playing time decreased in games. The underclassman in the 2017 season saw on average more playing time. This was a difficult transition for some upperclassman who had assumed as they got older, their playing time would increase.

“It’s really hard. I think the transition from sophomore year to junior year you think you are going to get more playing time like as you get older but that’s not always or necessarily the case,” Alvarenga Beech said. “I think this year especially wasn’t as hard for me to not play as much just because I knew those things [getting less playing time], but it was definitely like a steep learning curve sophomore and junior year accepting that and learning those lessons.”

“I think for me junior year was the hardest because I played a decent amount and started a few games sophomore year so I just kind of expected that I would continue that junior year,” Schump said. “I definitely had a tougher time, but I think this year I took that stress out of it and just like I’m going to make the most out of my senior year and have fun with it. I think this year hasn’t been as bad just because I’ve had a different expectation and different outlook on it.”

Alvarenga Beech said that it was important for her to find her role on the team and to know that she was still valued. She said that being the “team mom” was her role and all her teammates agreed.

Alvaregna Beech fully embraced being the team mom and even dressed up as a mom for Halloween and had people play her children, junior Olivia Hollenbeck said.

As the seasons progressed the seniors’ plates also got fuller with school, athletics, work and social lives.

DeRocher said being in mostly science classes, as a mathematics major, she would have three labs and combined with soccer meant that somedays she would not be able to go home between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sims, a double English literature and education major, said that every year is difficult because they go to a division three school that prioritizes academics but then they also have sports.

But even through all the rough patches the seniors kept playing. Sims said it was never really a reality for them to quit because it is such a big part of their lives. And the friends they made through it influenced them to stay in the game.

Schump said her biggest motivator was her teammates because they were her best friends. “[I] never thought about why I was doing it. It was just who I was,” she said. “It was never ‘should I keep doing this’ it was like ‘I am still doing this.’”

DeRocher, Sims and Alvarenga Beech all grew up in “soccer families,” which were all big motivators for them to keep playing soccer. DeRocher said soccer was something her whole family could rally behind and share in common. Alvarenga Beech and Sims related to DeRocher because going out to a field and kicking the ball around with their family members is a loving memory for both of them.

Sims said soccer was also a part of her identity being “the soccer girl” and her family also took it up. She said that they are a “soccer family” and that her mom loves being a soccer mom. The sport was always part of their life so continuing to play was not a question for her.

Even though balancing everything is tough, the four do not regret playing in college. Alvarenga Beech said her best team memories are her walking though the campus and getting hyped to see each of her teammates even though they just had practice 12 hours ago. Or walking into Starbucks and seeing the entire team doing homework but “obviously not getting anything done.”

The seniors all laughed at how when Tuesday practices rolled around the whole team was like “oh my gosh,” “I miss you,” and “what have you been up to” to each other because they did not have practices on Monday. Their season schedule requires them to usually have Mondays off since they play games both Saturday and Sunday.

“The seniors built a family within the team. They consistently were available to all girls for questions, advice or support. They were able to build a support system and provide a pathway from the team to the coaches. The team would be completely different without them,” Hollenbeck said.

November marked a bittersweet end to a chapter in the seniors’ lives. For DeRocher it is just that: an ending of a chapter for her. Being future oriented, she said she’s been thinking about going to medical school since the beginning. She is thankful for her time on the field but said she needed it to come to an end to focus on something else in her life.

Schump and Sims expressed similar perceptions saying that since high school they have become more than just “the soccer girls.” All of them joked around saying that you cannot be “Kyla the soccer girl forever.” Alvarenga Beech laughed back saying you can try.

But Alvarena Beech admits it is different for her saying the reason she chose to be an athletic training major is because she did not want to stop being a part of the sports world. She hopes to work for a soccer team and continue to be a part of the community.

The senior game was emotional for all of them. Alvarenga Beech expressed that it might have been more for her since she did not want soccer to end. But she recognizes that it needs to happen for the next portion of her life to start. She said the most difficult part for her is knowing that she will not be coming back next year as a player.

Alvarenga Beech’s advice for athletes in the push to go all four years is: “[It’s] Important to evaluate yourself each year. Just think if you still love this and do you still want to do this because sometimes you go halfway through sophomore year and just realize you don’t love it anymore, which is really hard to realize for someone in that position who’s played all their life. So, it takes a lot of self-reflection.”

Schump added that quitting is a respectable decision too if someone realizes that they do not love the sport anymore because it has to be what is important to them.

Sims says prioritize what is important in life. If school and sport is too much do what is best.