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Women’s Soccer Seniors Reflect On Their Journeys as Athletes

Women’s Soccer Seniors Reflect On Their Journeys as Athletes
Photo by Linus Li | Marketing Director

Linus Li
Marketing Director

They get to travel to Hawaii, play their favorite sport as the sun sets over Harder Stadium, and bond together when times get tough. The 2017-2018 University of California, Santa Barbara women’s soccer team is made up of 30 different personalities, yet they are one family.

During the afternoon of Oct. 29, five seniors on the team played their final game at Harder Stadium, putting an official end to their time as Division I student athletes.

The players are Amanda Ball, Brittney Rogers, Chace Schornstein, Kate Shoemaker, and Maddie Julian.

The Bottom Line had an opportunity to interview former defensive midfielder Schornstein and former goalkeepers Julian and Rogers to reflect upon each of their journeys as athletes as well as their struggles as full-time college students.

“It was a big commitment the last three and a half years, but I couldn’t imagine coming into college without a big group of people to immediately be friends with,” said Schornstein, a fourth year communications major with a minor in professional business writing.

As a freshman coming from her hometown of Tiburon, California, Schornstein played in 18 of the 2014-2015 season’s 19 matches, scoring her first pair of goals over Sacramento State University and the University of California, Davis.

Since then, Schornstein has been named part of the 2014 Big West All-Freshmen Team, the 2015 Second Team All-Big West, and the 2016 Honorable Mention All-Big West after competing as a junior.

Before she played at the Big West Conference, Schornstein started playing soccer at the age of four. Since then, she has spent weekends at practices and matches throughout her childhood and into high school. 

Schornstein credits her parents for driving her to soccer matches and her friends and fellow athletes for being “influential” to her achievements today.

By Schornstein’s final season, she played in 57 matches and scored six goals. There is, however, one particular match in Schornstein’s second season that stands out in her memory.

It was a night home game against the University of Texas in 2015.

Besides scoring a goal at the 86th minute with an assist by midfielder/forward and then-freshman Mallory Hromatko, UCSB’s women’s soccer team came together during this game.

“We had a good season. I scored a goal,” Schornstein said. She went on, “Texas is a big school, they had a good soccer program…We are a smaller program, less funded, so it was just a huge win.”

Schornstein described her goal as “only a cherry on the top.”

Another senior goalkeeper, Maddie Julian, has a somewhat different story than the rest of this year’s team. Despite being the oldest player on UCSB’s women’s soccer team, she was among the newest to join.

Julian is a first year master student in Environmental Science and Management at UCSB. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, where she previously played soccer, Julian turned to her former coach at the Pac-12 institution.

Julian asked her coach about using her last year of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility to play at another school, where she could begin master studies.

“I haven’t thought much about it but I decided it was a good idea [to go to graduate school], so he [Julian’s coach at Berkeley] reached out to a bunch of coaches and asked them if they needed a goalkeeper,” Julian said.

Just months later, Julian walked into an environment full of unfamiliar faces. She described her first encounter with the team as “nerve-wracking.” Things rapidly changed.

“It was surprisingly easy thanks to everyone on the team,” Julian said as she described her transition. “Everyone was super welcoming and super nice, so it made it a lot easier to come in and get to know people and fit in.”

Between practices, team meetings, matches, regular appointments with coaches, and getting their ankles taped, these players are frequently left with minimal time for their studies.

“Over the past five years, I do think a lot about the missed opportunities that I could have had, but at the same time, soccer has also brought me to places that I never would have been otherwise,” Julian said.

From playing at Berkeley to getting accepted into UCSB’s mater program, Julian questioned if any of this could have happened if she had not played soccer.

For Rogers and Schornstein, success depended on time management.

As a freshman, Rogers, a psychology major from Temecula, admitted that she was not fully aware of the importance and difficulty in balancing school work with soccer.

“It takes a moment to definitely get into the swing of things and to know your priorities,” Rogers said.

Many college athletes devote a significant amount of time into sports to the point that the sport defines them and gives them a purpose. Yet, many individuals eventually come to a point where they must accept the reality that their times as athletes are over.

As much as their lives might still revolve around the sport, these ex-athletes no longer undergo hours of intense training and conditioning per day, nor do they get to travel to different parts of the country to put their skills to test.

Now is the time for Schornstein, Julian, and Rogers to think about life after soccer.

“Soccer is not necessarily taking me anywhere after college,” Schornstein admitted, pausing for a second. “Sometimes it was like ‘should I get a job or should I play soccer,’ and that’s something that has definitely been a struggle of mine when I looked too much into the future.”

“You live in the moment when you play soccer,” she later said.

Of course, being star athletes does not exempt soccer players from their student obligations. Rogers and Julian nodded as Schornstein added, “soccer is a close second.”

“If I had a test and I had to study, my coach would actually let me study and that’s what I would choose to do.” Schornstein went on, “but mentally, soccer takes up a lot more time and my brain than school does. School doesn’t seem as stressful.”

Behind the success of women’s soccer at UCSB is the coaching staff and everyone else who dedicates their time into making sure the athletes perform their best. When the three women described head coach Paul Stumpf, they mentioned words that illustrate Stumpf’s character, like dedicated, hard-working, and invested.

However, seniors agreed that “passionate” most accurately describes Stumpf as a coach and a person who they could count on.

“There were many times when the season wasn’t going the way we all want it to be going, you would hear him say he had a hard time falling asleep at night, all he could do was think about the game,” Rogers said. “As soon as we get back on the bus, he’s already watching the film over again and…seeing what we can do better and the changes that he needs to make going forward.”

Looking back, these seniors have not only each received a dozen recognitions, they have each learned lifetime lessons as they depart from their college sports careers.

“Being an athlete provides a lot of people and myself with a lot of insights and skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have,” Schornstein said. “Being a team player, how to work with others, it has been so fun to meet so many different people and figure out how we mesh together.” 

As much as these soccer players are excited to find out more about their passions and other things that define them, soccer will always remain part of their lives.

“I definitely still want to keep playing,” Julian said. “And I will definitely stay active.”

Following their final season, Ball and Schornstein were each inducted to the All Big-West First Team, an honor awarded after each season to select players from schools in the Big West Conference.

Life, after all, is much like how goalkeeper Julian described soccer. “The hardest part of the game that is not played on your end is staying engaged with the team and making sure everyone is organized,” Julian said. 

Similarly, Rogers’ way of dealing with losses can help with getting through any difficult time.

“You let it stink for the night and wake up the next morning and push yourself through it,” Rogers said. “You move on regardless.”

Some quotes in this article were lightly edited for clarity.

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