Lucas Monserrat '17, Obi Nnaeto '18, and Shea Smith '18 are just three of more than two dozen college athletes using the Greig Center over their winter break to stay in shape.
The three-sport student athlete and nine-time varsity letterer at Pingry is now a mechanical engineering major at MIT, playing defense for the Engineers' soccer team. Find out how she settled on soccer as her collegiate sport of choice, why the song September figures fondly into her Pingry memories, and the meaning behind "shout-out cards."
As a sophomore, and well into your collegiate career now, what has surprised you most about your transition from a high school student athlete to a student athlete in college?
I didn't realize how much of a family my college team would be. I was scared to leave Pingry because sports teams are so close, and I was afraid that college would be less like that. I anticipated that the MIT team would be a community, but I don't think I knew the extent that my team would be my support system, both on and off the field. On the field, everyone has a bad game or practice, and teammates are always there to pick me up. If I'm having a really busy week or have a big test, teammates will bring me food and keep me upbeat. We eat together, we travel together, I live with a lot of them—we're such a family. Another big surprise was how helpful the upperclassmen were. Right from the start last year, they took me under their wing, giving advice on classes and the ins and outs of MIT. I was never intimidated by them, and I was so much more prepared for the year. We do this thing call "shout-out cards," where seniors will write little notes and put them in our lockers just to say, "Wow, you did this really well!" Or, "You really put a smile on my face when you did this. . ." As a freshman, that was such a huge thing for me. I felt really valued on the team.
You were a three-sport athlete at Pingry—soccer, basketball, and track & field—and captain of both the soccer and basketball teams your senior year. What led you to choose soccer?
Soccer has always been my primary sport. I considered playing basketball in college as well, but once I got to MIT I realized I didn't have enough time play another varsity sport. I still miss basketball and track a lot. Sometimes my friends and I will play a pick-up game in the gym. And whenever I see hurdles on the track, I still have to jump over them for fun. I was fortunate in that my MIT coach appreciates multi-sport athletes. We were at a game the other day and one of my teammates was taking a corner kick. I was supposed to screen my teammate's defender so she would be free for a header. I ended up setting the screen and then rolling to the back post where I got the header and scored. Afterwards, when my coach asked me how it had happened, I joked, "It was a pick and roll coach!," using a basketball expression. Pingry does a great job of saying to students, "Try whatever sport you want. Join the track team, even if you've never done it before!" I chose to focus on soccer at MIT, but I have taken that excited attitude and passion for sports with me to college. I even joined the club volleyball team during soccer's off-season.
Going into the college application process, I knew I wanted to stay involved in sports, but I wasn't stuck on the idea that I had to be playing a varsity sport. I wanted to choose the college that was best for me, and if they had a varsity soccer team I could play on, that was an extra bonus. MIT is similar to Pingry in that there are really competitive sports teams, but first and foremost, everyone is excited about learning. Academics comes first, but when you're at soccer, you're not thinking about academics, like at Pingry. I've been lucky because between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. nothing can be happening other than sports practices—no classes or club meetings. I've been able to do both, maximize my learning and soccer playing. It's one of my favorite parts about MIT. Pingry just set me up really well. I was always balancing a lot of different things.
Favorite Pingry memory?
Listening to the song September during warmups my senior year on the Girls' Varsity Soccer Team to get hyped for games. I was just telling a college friend about this song the other day, and how exciting it was before our county final my senior year to be in a locker room with all my teammates screaming the song. Singing before games was one of our many team traditions. One of my favorite freshman year memories was singing on the bus after a big state tournament win. I loved my club team, too, but the traditions I'm talking about are always related back to Pingry. What I loved so much about Pingry is that, by the time you're a senior, you're leading the traditions, and you're hoping to pass them down to generations below you. I thought I was really spoiled in high school, and I still do think that. There's something so special about team bonds and team identity at Pingry.
Do you maintain a connection to Pingry soccer today?
Definitely. Before my freshmen soccer season at MIT, I went to Pingry preseason and everyone came up and hugged me. I keep in touch with my close friends from the team and talk throughout the season to some girls who are still on the team, now upperclassmen. There's a Pingry girls' soccer Instagram page and I love following the photos and videos that they post and seeing the traditions carry on. There's definitely still a soccer community once you leave Pingry.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org