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Exactly three years ago, my new friends and I made a promise to each other. My new friend Fiona was told by my new friend Bubba that he had been Shrek the ogre the previous year. At more than six feet tall and shoulders as wide as a doorframe, he fit the character well. “Shrek and Fiona! We gotta do it!” he decided within two minutes of learning Fiona’s name.
The group that was there to hear Bubba’s insistence never forgot it, and at the beginning of our senior year, my friend group decided we couldn’t let freshman-year Bubba down. Fiona got her costume ready, my five-foot self was told, not asked, to be Lord Farquaad, my other roommates got ears and a hat for Donkey and Puss in Boots, and their boyfriends were forced to be Gingey and Dragon.
We had our plan set to dress up as characters from Shrek on what Juniata dubs “Halloweekend”, the weekend before Halloween. First though, I had to be again reminded that I had somehow been at Juniata for more than three years.
October 30th was Senior Day for the Juniata Women’s Soccer team. Before our last game of the season, we had a small ceremony before the game. I walked with my parents through a tunnel of my teammates, received flowers and a framed plaque of my previous Juniata jersey, and heard my four-year stats and kind words from my teammates over the loudspeaker. I was met with fun decorations as I walked into our team locker room. Four tables filled with food met me after our game was done. Handmade scrapbook pages of funny memories and encouraging words were ribboned together in my locker. I felt a lot of love from my teammates and their families, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had grown three years older and wiser without my own permission. I cried a few tears but left our home field very full and very happy with arms full of gifts. I’ll be a mess after next semester’s lacrosse senior day, but I also imagine I will be happy looking back on my four year journey at Juniata, within athletics and outside of them.
My friends and I have come a long way from our freshman selves, but I am so glad we’ve been able to keep our freshman year promises. We are finishing seasons, completing high-level research, reflecting on internships or studies abroad in real-world job interviews, telling new students about that time we had that professor and got that grade, and all other sorts of things we had promised ourselves we would get through but didn’t quite know we would. Senior year forces us to think a lot about the future, but there’s nothing wrong with reflecting on how far you’ve come and how old you may have gotten.
I was first exposed to lacrosse as a freshman in high school when I was applying to Fountain Valley School of Colorado. I knew nothing about the sport, but from the moment I saw the few pictures of what looked to be combination football-hockey players striding through the trees of Fountain Valley’s Victory Road, I knew I wanted to play. These hopes were soon dashed by an aside comment from one of my Track and Field teammates who, when I told him that I wanted to play lacrosse because it looked fun, said, “Dude you’re so tiny those guys would kill you.” And that was the end of that.
At the beginning of this spring semester, Juniata Women’s Lacrosse made their NCAA D3 debut. I can’t say that I was all that excited about watching the sport because I didn’t understand the rules (and even after watching two games I still don’t understand what half the fouls were called for) and my initial infatuation with the sport had faded. But I was excited to watch my friends play a sport they loved and had practiced hard to do well in.
The day of the first lacrosse game was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm for mid-March in central Pennsylvania. The stands were not as full as they could be for the inaugural game of our lacrosse program, but those of us who were there were all there to support our friends and family and we were excited!
To be honest I’m not sure how many of us thought we were going to win that first game. Of course, we were all hoping and praying that our team would win but it was their first game and we assumed the girls they would be playing would be hardened Lax athletes. But from the moment Kat scored the first goal, I knew it was going to be a good game. The moment the crowd saw the ball hit the back of the net, it exploded to its feet cheering and screaming in the elation of an early success. Then Britt scored, then Natalie then Kat again and Britt again and before I knew it the game was over and we had managed to win by a decent margin and we had made it into the double digits.
Before this year I never attended Juniata sporting events. I just never found the time to. But the energy of that first lacrosse game, the support that the crowd gave to the team was infectious and next year, when I will be a Senior you will hopefully find me at every single home game, supporting my team.
Growing up, sports were a very large part of my life. Between multiple sports and multiple teams for each sport, I was always kept very busy. When I got to college, it was almost a relief to decide to not commit to a varsity sport, and instead dedicate this free time to the increased workload and many friends that I was making.
At the same time, it was strange not playing soccer anymore, and I really missed it! Fortunately, I discovered intramural sports, which are a perfect combination of low commitment and low pressure fun with the competitiveness of actually playing. We usually play one day a week, always at night after everyone’s activities and meetings are over. Five people are on the field at a time, and halves are twenty minutes long. This is my second year playing intramural soccer and though my team isn’t very good, it’s a blast!
Now when I say my team isn’t very good, I should really clarify that we are downright awful. Our team name is the “Soccer Moms,” and we’re made up of both guys and girls who haven’t played in many years, some since they were eight years old! The point, however, is not really to win, but to just have fun running around and trying our best (I know this sounds clichéd but it’s true; after your team scores multiple goals on your own net, your expectations really lower).
In the fall, we lost every single game except for 1, which we tied. Somehow, this was enough to advance us to the playoffs, and then we ended up losing our first playoff game. Now, for the winter session, our record is currently 0-3, but I think we just got off to a rough start and things are going to start looking up. Ultimately, I’m just happy to get some touches on the ball and glad that there are low-key options for those of us who don’t wish to commit to a varsity sport but still want to play. So if this sounds like you, don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities to still be active and play the game you love (whether it’s soccer, basketball, volleyball, or more). Wish the Soccer Moms luck!