Two games. Two sports. Two victories. Both over Washington College. Both ending in 2-1 final scores.
The most important similarity for both of these sports: the women who have spent four years of their college careers wearing Muhlenberg across their chests were able to walk off the field victors. These victories were a tad different than most. They took place on their program’s senior days, which is typically the final home game or competition of a program’s season. It is a celebration of the time, effort and commitment each graduating senior has given to the game that became their life. And for many of the seniors that will graduate from these two teams, along with the majority of graduating student athletes at Muhlenberg college, their senior day will be the last opportunity to wear jersey, or play an organized sport at all.
Field hockey’s game on Friday night was the first senior day competition of the 2017-18 school year at Muhlenberg. In short, the field hockey game came down to the wire. The Mules led at the half, thanks to a goal by Laura Holdman ‘18. “I said to the team at halftime, ‘If I have to have a last game, this is the only way I would want to play it.’ It was on our home turf, we came out fighting, we worked hard,” said Holdman. After Washington answered to tie the game at 1-1, Muhlenberg proved they had one last trick up their sleeve for the season. With just over two minutes and 30 seconds remaining, Holdman assisted Stephi Rydgren ’19 who scored the game winning to secure the victory. The field hockey team may have started their season on a rough note, but capped the season with a five-game winning streak. “The win on Friday night was all I could have asked for in my last career game,” said Holdman. She continued, “Over four years, any athlete will experience many ups and downs but I’m happy I got to walk off the field for the last time on a high note. I definitely still cried when the last whistle blew but it made the end a little easier to take.”
For this year’s senior field hockey class, they deserve to feel accomplished. Holdman specifically says she is proud of the 2016-17 season the team had, her junior year. “We had an incredible team.” Among a slew of broken records, an 18-3 record and an ECAC tournament championship Holdman explains that the success the team experienced in that season, “I love to win, any athlete does. All of the hard work we had put in and the legacy that girls before us had left paid off. I was very proud to be a part of that team.” Goalie Emma Rosenthal ’18, who will be playing in the 2017 Victory Sports Tours/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division III Senior Game was also proud of the championship, said “Since we were freshmen it was always a goal of the team to win a championship since it had not previously been done, so to win the ECAC championship while we were here is an incredible feeling. Even though this year our last game was not a championship winning one, it felt just as good to walk off the field for the last time with a win.”
Saturday night was women’s soccer’s turn to send their seniors off on a positive note. They delivered. With a pair of goals coming off of the left foot of Makenzie O’Brien ‘19, scored within six minutes of each other, the Mules were able to hold off attacks from Washington College to seal the win. The women’s soccer program’s roster only consisted of two seniors, much less than field hockey’s six (women’s soccer has 24 players while field hockey has 21). Captain Carly DeNigris ’18 spoke about the team’s mentality going into the last matchup. “Going into the game we knew that we had nothing to lose, whether or not we won, it was going to be our last.” DeNigris added, “I am so happy that the team pulled together to get a win and end on a high. We deserve so much more recognition than our record shows, and ending on a win confirms that.” DeNigris’ lone senior teammate, Molly Chiodo ’18 had a similar opinion on the clutch win. “I am honestly so grateful that we ended our season on a win especially coming from a series of back to back overtime games with no outcome. We finally were able to finish strong and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Overall, Chiodo and DeNigris noticed a simple principle that the program had in their senior campaigns—a positive attitude. “I most proud of my team as a unit. We had good attitudes on and off the field,” explained Chiodo. “This year we really managed to keep everyone’s spirits high and focus on the positives in our game play.” What Chiodo will miss most has to do with that positive, fun atmosphere she spoke about, especially involving DeNigris. “I am definitely going to miss joking around with Carly on and off of the field. She also always pushed me and guided me with skills and positioning especially playing as a forward which is a foreign position for me.”
The physical grind of playing four seasons of any collegiate sport is something to be proud of. “Personally, I am the most surprised and proud of the fact that my body was able to make it through four years (and many overtimes) of intense soccer games,” said DeNigris. She added, “There were always moments where I would doubt myself and my abilities, but with the support of my team I knew I would be able to push through each and every practice and game.”
For both teams, being part of athletics at Muhlenberg is a lot more than trying to win games. The women of the field hockey and women’s soccer team couldn’t have stressed that more. “We have always called ourselves a family,” said Holdman. “This team is how I made some of my lifelong friends and I will never forget the countless hours on and off the field that brought us together,” she added. DeNigris had similar words to say about the connections she made while suiting up for ‘Berg. “Since it was such a small group of us and we all lived in the same dorm, we were able to bond very quickly. Living in the same room as Molly for two and half years before I went abroad allowed us to learn way more about each other than the typical friendship.”
No matter the sport, student athletes across Muhlenberg’s campus are sure to experience that knotted stomach feeling, a sense of nervousness. But this time, not because of the nationally ranked opponent they have to face, or because of the all-conference player they have to guard, or because it is a championship game. But instead, because they will never get to experience that type of nervous again.