By Kelsey Wirtz, a senior captain on the St. Mary's College of Maryland women's soccer team
Ten years old, with my entire life ahead of me, I stood on the soccer field at St. Mary's. There were so many directions I could take and so many places I could end up. But there was one path that was clear to me: where I was going to go to college. I knew I had to end up here.
I began playing soccer when it was just a bunch of peewees chasing the ball around a field. I was one of the tallest ones on the team, so naturally they put me in goal. And there I stayed...for the next fifteen years. I trained season after season, and eventually made it to the high school varsity team, but when my senior year came I was nowhere near ready to end my career. I knew St. Mary's. I loved St. Mary's. I was not just going to attend St. Mary's; I was going to play for St. Mary's.
It was such an easy choice to come here; I would get to live on the water and play the most amazing sport in the world. Maybe I could have gone to a big DI school, but being a bench-warmer was not worth it. I wanted to play the sport I love, not watch it. Being a part of a DIII team is hands down one of the best choices I have made. From the very first 6am fitness test, I had twenty new best friends with whom I shared a bond that no one else can ever understand. There were mistakes that cost us games, drills that we never wanted to do again, and days when our legs could barely carry us to the Great Room for dinner. But there were twice as many times when we pushed each other to pass a fitness test, or master a skill, or celebrate a win that we will remember for the rest of our lives. The bad, the good, we experienced it all, side by side.
And side by side we sat on the bus for the long drives home from away games, doing homework and helping each other study for upcoming exams. We all shared the same passion for soccer, but we all knew the real reason why we were at St. Mary's: to get an education unlike anywhere else. We were expected to wake up for those 8am classes no matter how late our bus arrived back on campus; we were expected to sacrifice a night at the Green Door to catch up on homework; we were expected to represent our team with dignity. By holding each other accountable for our grades, we proudly received team academic awards at the end of each year.
In college, we don't have many days off. There is always an essay to write, a practice to go to, a meeting to attend, and a job to make some pocket change. Despite the chaos that college offers, it is easy to find comfort in the small St. Mary's community. From the dedicated fans who drag their couches out onto the track to cheer us on, to the ones who stop by between classes to watch for a few minutes, to the parents who take off of work to make the beginning of the game, everyone aids in our success as a team. It was hard to hang up the cleats after my last game as a senior, and finally get that long awaited ACL/meniscus surgery, but nothing will change; I will always remember my time spent here at St. Mary's as some of the best four years of my life and I wouldn't change a thing.
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