Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of articles profiling former Dartmouth sports stars currently playing professionally.
One might expect that after being the seventh player drafted in the 2003 Women's United Soccer Association Draft, Mary McVeigh '03 spent her winter term anticipating the excitement of her professional debut with the Philadelphia Charge.
However, despite her status as a first-round draft pick, McVeigh seemed just as ready to return to Hanover for her senior spring to finish up her Dartmouth coursework as she was to embark on a professional soccer career.
Now, though, as the spring term winds down in Hanover, McVeigh's rookie season with the Charge is in full swing. Dart-mouth's all-time leader in tournament points has found a place in Philadelphia's starting lineup, taking the field alongside U.S. National Team stars Heather Mitts and Lorrie Fair and leaving questions as to whether she underestimated herself in post-draft interviews, many of which saw McVeigh unsure as to whether she would make the Charge's active roster.
According to McVeigh, her outlook before the Charge's training camp reflected a desire to be ready for anything, rather than a misjudgment of her own talents. "I didn't want to have any expectations when I was coming in," McVeigh said in an interview after her first win as a professional, a 2-1 victory over the New York Power at Long Island's Mitchel Athletic Complex last Saturday.
"I hadn't seen most of these players play. I played against Lorrie Fair my freshman year, and I knew how good she was. So, I wasn't going to set any expectations for myself, and I have the utmost respect for all of these players, so I'm not going to come in and assume that I'm going to make the team, or that I'm going to start or anything like that. I was happy just to be picked, and I was just kind of setting myself up for whatever might happen."
"Whatever might happen" included a position change, as McVeigh moved from the midfield, where she led Dartmouth in scoring in 2001 and 2002, to defense, where she's now charged with keeping the likes of the Washington Freedom's Mia Hamm and New York's Tiffany Milbrett far away from the net.
According to McVeigh, the move wasn't much of a surprise, as McVeigh "kind of knew, looking at the Charge team, coming in, that [a defensive role] might be something that I would have to step up and try. So, I had mentally prepared for it and physically prepared for it before I got here."
Part of that preparation came before McVeigh was drafted, as she started on defense during Dartmouth's regular season games against Brown and Hartford. Charge head coach Mark Krikorian, a former head coach at Hartford, was in attendance for Dartmouth's 2-0 victory over the Hawks, and saw McVeigh's potential as a WUSA defender.
If McVeigh misses her old position, she certainly doesn't show it, as one might expect from a first-round draft pick who refused to assume she would make her team's active roster. "Wherever you have to play, you have to play," McVeigh said. "With each level that you go up, you can't always expect to play in the middle of the middle."
Because of McVeigh's change of position, she may not have the opportunity to go up against Dartmouth's other contribution to the WUSA, goalkeeper Kristen Luckenbill '01 of the Carolina Courage, the WUSA Goalkeeper of the Year in 2002.
When asked if she was looking forward to playing against her former teammate when the Charge and Courage meet on May 31, McVeigh said, "I am," but added, "I seem to remember [Luckenbill] as a brick wall, so that kind of makes me nervous."
On not facing Luckenbill directly, McVeigh said, "Nobody ever wants to face Kristen and have it be your job to score on her, because it's pretty hard to do. So, I definitely want a chance to step up and beat her at her own game, but at the same time, I will always respect Lucky as one of my idols in making it through college."
As for "making it through college" herself, McVeigh will return to Dartmouth in the fall to complete her degree. McVeigh is unsure exactly what kind of relationship she'll have with her former Dartmouth teammates, but she anticipates enjoying her last term in Hanover.
"I think I'm going to try to get the best of both worlds," McVeigh said. "I think I'm going to try to be the team's biggest fan, but at the same time, try to experience Dartmouth without soccer for a little while, actually take a 2A. I'm definitely looking forward to the fall."
And as McVeigh continues to establish herself in the WUSA, she certainly has a lot more to look forward to.