What a Treat to Play Soccer at DePaul
Oct. 13, 2011
CHICAGO - There are going to be moments of reflection on Sunday, and probably a few tears will glisten on the faces of the nine seniors DePaul will honor at the Senior Day ceremony following its final home game against Georgetown.
As Michelle Scandora walks onto Wish Field one last time, two memories will be ensconced in her mind.
One will be the biggest goal she ever scored in her collegiate career that sent DePaul to the first BIG EAST Championship quarterfinals in program history.
The second will be the biggest and sweetest ice cream sundae she ever consumed in her collegiate career.
"I'll never forget when the coaches finally gave in and actually let us have dessert the night before our quarterfinal game at Marquette," Scandora said, her eyes shining.
"We were never allowed to have dessert. It was such a treat, and we were all so happy."
Scandora's penalty-kick goal on Oct. 28, 2010 gave the Blue Demons their first BIG EAST tournament victory, 1-0 over Pittsburgh at Wish Field.
Two days later, it was ice cream for everyone at a restaurant in Milwaukee.
While Scandora gets credit for scoring that dessert, classmate Arianna Foster deserves the assist.
"One of my best moments at DePaul was the Pitt game when I gave the ball to Natasa Radosavljevic," Foster said. "Tasha was fouled in the box, Michelle scored and we advanced to the quarterfinals."
Scandora, Foster, Morgan Celaya, Erika Janota, Casey Mercurio, Taylor Nieling, Susie O'Connor, Beth Perry and Kayla Rahon all arrived in Lincoln Park back back in 2008 ready to rebuild a Blue Demon program whose last back-to-back winning seasons was 2002 and 2003.
Coach Erin Chastain had arrived in March of 2007 with a master plan to transform DePaul into a BIG EAST and NCAA tournament contender.
Scandora & Co. would be her first recruiting class.
"When I first came here, I thought of it as a big challenge," Scandora said. "I wanted to come here and be a part of the rebuilding."
Foster nodded her head.
"I came here to make a difference, and I feel so honored and blessed to have been a part of this program," Foster said. "It's exciting that I made an impact on women's soccer at DePaul."
In their sophomore season, Foster and her classmates contributed to "Team Turnaround." The 2009 Blue Demons went 10-9-2 and upset No. 11 Missouri 1-0 for their first win over a nationally ranked team.
Senior Morgan Celaya will always remember her assist on Shannon Williams' goal in Columbia, Mo. for the 1-0 victory that will remain one of the watershed moments in DePaul women's soccer history.
"That was really special, and scoring goals this season is nice and feels really good," Celaya said. "Our season has not gone the way we wanted it to, but we've gained a lot of character and perseverance.
"We will all be able to use that going forward in life."
DePaul followed up the turnaround season with an 11-9-2 record and the advancement to the BIG EAST quarterfinals---much to the delight of senior defender Casey Mercurio.
"We had so much success in 2009, and that's the year I sat out with an injury," Mercurio said. "There were quite a few injuries I've had to battle through these last four years. It was hard not to be a part of the turnaround.
"But then I came back the following year. and we did even better."
Perry spoke about how close-knit the players became living in the same dorm the last three years.
"This is a team that is really close, and I'll always remember how we hung out together," Perry said. "And, it wasn't just a freshmen/senior thing.
"It's like a big family, and being a leader my senior year has meant a lot to me."
Before the emotional match on Sunday, the Blue Demons face Villanova (7-7-2, 3-5-0 in the BIG EAST) at 3 p.m. Friday at Wish Field. Villanova is led by its triple threat of Katie Ryan (nine goals), Stephanie Myers (seven goals) and Heidi Sabatura (five goals).
Then comes Georgetown (11-5-0, 5-2-0) led by Camille Trujillo (nine goals) and Ingrid Wells (eight goals, eight assists).
"I look upon Senior Day as an accomplishment," Mercurio said. "In four years, we have come this far, and to be honored with all the other seniors means a lot---because we did it together.
"I remember how the team was my freshman year and see how much better the program has become. I see how much we have all grown."
Scandora said she will have mixed emotions.
"It's the culmination of all four years, and it's a little bittersweet," said the two-year captain. "It's sad because this is the last time all the seniors will play together on our home field.
"But it's also kind of exciting because we're moving on with our lives and going into the real world."
They are moving on, but not before leaving behind a legacy that will impact future generations of Blue Demons.
"I feel honored to be on this team," Scandora said. "It took a lot of hard work and dedication, and we deserve recognition as seniors.
"We've made a name for ourselves in the BIG EAST. People in the conference didn't know about DePaul soccer, and our freshman year was the start of rebuilding the program.
"Even though our season didn't go like we wanted, nobody will brush off DePaul anymore."
Blue Demon Quick Kicks
Six of the nine seniors being honored on Sunday have made the BIG EAST All-Academic Team three consecutive years.
Two of the seniors, Perry and Rahon, will be graduating with double majors.
Not only did Scandora excel on the soccer field, but she was also nominated for the Capital One Academic All-American Team and for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
Celaya and Amber Paul lead the team with three goals apiece.
Rebekah Roller leads the Blue Demons in assists with three.
Goalkeeper Megan Pyrz has made 45 saves in the last six games.
Celaya tops the team in shots with 40 and shots on goal with 20.
Scandora is second on the team in shots on goal with 12.
After the weekend, the Blue Demons close out the regular season with a 6:30 p.m. match on Oct. 21 at Notre Dame.