Soccer, four years later...
After four grueling Fall terms together, not to mention seemingly endless months of off season training, the four seniors who make up the core of this year's outstanding women's soccer team have grown to appreciate all the advantages varsity athletics can provide.
"I would say that the four of us know each other in and out," Mya Mangawang '95 said. "How could we not? It's such a trying time all fall and with the off season workouts. We really can't get away from each other."
Mangawang, with her hard work ethic, has proven this year that she is a force to be acknowledged. Having scored eight goals this season and 16 in her Dartmouth career, she has made a great contribution to the Big Green's 10-3-1 record.
"Mya is amazing," Michelle Conroy '95 said. "She is a leader by example. She is a hard worker and that's her way of letting people know what the standard is. She always comes into the season fit and works extremely hard."
Conroy, who is the Big Green's captain, suffered an unfortunate knee injury in Dartmouth's first game against UConn. Since Conroy has been sidelined for the remainder of the season, her role on the team has shifted.
"Before, I was more of a leader on the field because goal tending can often lead to that position," Conroy said. "I often would get the team together after goals, but now that I'm off the field, it's different for me. I still care about the team and try and be there for them as much as I can be."
Because of Conroy's absence on the field, the roles of other players have also adjusted.
"Since Michelle is now more of a leader off the field, we, along with the younger players, have had to pick it up a little more on the field," Brittanny Boulanger '95 said. "Yet even though Michelle is injured, everyone still looks up to her."
Boulanger, like Mangawang, has a definite spunk about her on the field. Not only has her remarkable play -- with 21 career goals and four goals this season -- sparked the Big Green, but Boulanger's energetic attitude is often an inspiration to her teammates.
"Britt is always hyper," Conroy said. "She leads by example and is often seen getting everyone psyched before games."
In contrast, Maggie Essman '95 provides the more subtle approach that the Big Green often needs to be more balanced.
"Maggie is the quiet one of the group," Coach Steve Swanson said. "I think she's one who often doesn't get the recognition the other three get, but she is such an integral part of our team. She does all the little things and carries herself in such a good way."
Despite their many differences, the four senior women on the team have a great deal of respect for each other.
"We are all very different people," Conroy said. "But we've all really gotten together and know each other well. We do a lot of things off the field and away from soccer. We're always there for each other."
The seniors, in addition to being friends on and off the field, have developed a sense of closeness to each other, knowing how much they can depend on one another.
"It's always easier to overcome difficulties we have because we come together collectively and it always seems better," Mangawang said. "Whether on the field or off, our friendship is always there to pull us through."
As seniors, all four players recognize that not only must they be there for each other, but they must also be prepared to unite the whole Dartmouth squad by leading through example.
"I think we've all grown up, in terms of what responsibility has meant to us," Conroy said. "It's an interesting transition through the years because as you get older your seniority responsibilities change. I think we've all grown as people, though, and learned to appreciate the idea of a team and being together as a team, and we've definitely grown into the senior leadership position."
The four women have not only grown together, but they've also helped implement the new and more competitive Dartmouth program, which Swanson began to develop when he arrived four years ago.
"This is the first class I've had from start to finish," Swanson said. "There is nothing like growing with a program, and they have a lot to do with our growth and our success recently."
With a win at the Ivy League championship last year, as well as Dartmouth's first NCAA tournament bid, the Big Green have indeed grown into a nationally competitive team.
"Whenever you have players like them, that's all you need," Swanson said. "They've shared the same vision - the fact that we can be successful. We can work hard and have fun at the same time."
With only one regular season game remaining, soccer will soon end for the four seniors, but the lessons learned will last forever.
"The camaraderie I've gotten out of them over the past four years will last longer than anything - longer than any Ivy ring or any of the tangibles," Mangawang said. "Soccer has forever instilled in me my work ethic and has left me with those friendships."