5 freshmen reflect on challenges of college soccer

Posted 3 August 2023 at 2:14 pm

Mulka, Creasey, Lewis, Scanlan and Knaak grateful for friendships on teams, opportunity to keep playing a sport they love

Pictured from left include Sydney Mulka of Penn State Harrisburg, Nicolina Creasey of Buff State, and Ella Lewis of Finger Lakes Community College.

By Claire Squicciarini, correspondent

Choosing to continue to play a sport into college takes great passion and commitment. Last year four of Albion’s 2022 graduates – Sydney Mulka, Nicolina Creasey, Abby Scanlan and Alyson Knaak – along with Lyndonville’s Ella Lewis decided to carry their love for soccer into their college careers.

Sydney Mulka completed her first year as goalie at Penn State Harrisburg while studying biology. She recorded an average goals allowed of 0.82. Along with this she earned All-Region third team and United East All-Conference first team.

“I continued playing because I love the sport of soccer and I think it provides so many benefits on and off the field” Mulka said.

Unfortunately, during Nicolina Creasey’s first year at Buffalo State she was only able to play in four games before a serious injury. After spraining her ACL, Creasey did two months of physical therapy until she could run again. However, she continued to support her team and study speech pathology.

Alyson Knaak at Alfred State studies Veterinary Technology while being a solid defender for the Pioneers. In her freshman year she even scored a goal from the back line.

Across the street at Alfred University, Abby Scanlan earned All-Empire 8 third team. Scanlan also earned offensive player of the week and Saxon of the week while exploring her study of criminal justice.

Ella Lewis also is a criminal justice major. She has been a key offensive force for Finger Lakes Community College. In her first year, she scored 25 goals and had 2 assists.

The players shared how they made the transition from high school to college athletics.

“The environment pushes you to grow in unique ways” Creasey said.

The transition to college is extremely challenging and being on a higher-level team can be mentally draining.

“I was not used to the to the physical and mental strain that college soccer would cost,” Mulka said. “However, it is then when you have to rely on the discipline within yourself not to give up because your teammates need you.”

In high school a soccer season typically lasts from late August to possibly early November. Then the athletes can carry on to rest or participate in other sports. On the other hand, a college fall season starts mid-August and can go as long as to late November. However, it does not end there.

Pictured from left include Abby Scanlan of Alfred University, Alyson Knaak of Alfred State and Claire Squicciarini of Alfred University.

Over the winter fall sport teams continues to meet for touches on the ball and lifts to stay strong. Then there is spring ball. Back to practices and lifts almost every day a week staying fit and preparing for one scrimmage before summer. (There are some student-athletes in college that play other sports. Lewis also played softball at Finger Lakes CC.)

The dedication over many months to the team and sport is needed from every person on the team. Creasey explained after her two months of PT with trainers she continued to recover by doing exercises by herself for months after. Athletes need self-discipline and dedication to take care of themselves to continue to fulfill their potential.

College is a major transition in life for the athletes, a shift to added independence and responsibility. Adding the demands of a sport to this critical juncture for the students requires discipline, motivation and self-care.

“In college you get all the players that actually know and play the sport well, it brings out a different competitive side in you,” Scanlan said.

The competition on the field is at a much higher level, with the other players all highly skilled. Every player on that field works day and night for their position. As Scanlan explained this can really push a player to try harder and develop a deeper love for the sport.

Classes are also more challenging and the student-athletes need to make their time count to meet the demands to the team and the classroom. Some student-athletes prefer to be busy to get things done.

“Playing soccer actually kept me more motivated in the end because I was always on a set schedule,” Lewis said.

Working through an injury also takes a toll mentally on the athletes, who bring such a competitive drive and passion for the sport.

“This was a huge mental and physical obstacle for me,” Creasey said about battling through her ACL injury. “I learned a lot about staying disciplined and focused on long-term goals through my recovery.”

Luckily in college not only do athletes get to experience the higher level of competition but also athletic training facilities. While they physically heal, they can come to these trainer, coaches, or teammates for a shoulder to lean on for their mental health.

“Playing for a new team in college just meant that I got to have a built-in family which made my transition to college so much easier and definitely more fun,” said Lewis, of Finger Lakes CC.

A team creates a bond between player that can lead to lifelong friendships. Coming into an unfamiliar environment as a freshman in college can feel a bit lonely. A big benefit of being on a sports team in college is the friendships right at the start of the college experience and the support from those new teammates.

Personally, I have been at Alfred University studying communications and playing for the Saxons for two years. At first, I was nervous for the change and the increase in competition but it has taught me a lot and made me love the sport of soccer even more.

I also met so many amazing people I am lucky to call my friends and teammates while getting to live and play with my best friend that I have been playing with forever – Abby Scanlan. I was challenged physically and mentally. But, overall playing soccer in college helped me grow a lot as a person.

“Getting out there and trying new things will help boost your understanding of yourself leading to more confidence,” Scanlan said.

College sports requires a lot from a person and can be a challenge. However, the experience can change your life.