Frosh Trio Adjusts to College





From the North Star State to the Sunshine State; Frosh Trio Adjusts to College in Tampa Bay

One thousand seven hundred; that is roughly the number of miles it is from Eckerd College to the state of Minnesota. How one copes with that much distance from home is dependent on each individual situation. Some put their mind into their classes. Some put their focus into a sport, whether it is varsity or club. Some find bonds in the people around them. For three young women on the Eckerd College women’s soccer team, they find solace in being Minnesotans.

These three girls have come to a different place to learn and play in a sport that makes them feel whole as a person. Yet being able to find comfort with new surroundings and new people is tough, so they formed their own make-shift family that they can rely on and adapt with when they are feeling out of place or home sick. Freshmen Maddy Anderson, Cassie Burke and Emily Johnson are all within minutes from each other in Minnesota, and even closer at Eckerd.

When Coach Joe McCauley sits down and talks about these three girls, a few words that come to mind describing their work ethic are hard-work and dedication to each other and the team. They have definitely earned their spots.

Thanks to her three big sisters, Emily Johnson has been playing soccer her whole life. She came to Eckerd College with her sights set on not only the Marine Science program, but also on playing for a Division II soccer team. She tried out for the team her senior year of high school, with the honor of being St. Paul Central’s Most Valuable Player, as well as being on both the All-Conference and All-State teams. Soccer has always been a big part of Johnson’s life; she ardently explains, “I love just playing with the ball.” Wearing her number 12 on her back, she plays forward for the Tritons with the same magnitude, energy, and charisma.

Maddy Anderson wears the number six on the team. A freshman forward from St. Paul, Minnesota, she has been playing soccer since she was five years old. Before she graduated from Chaska High school with an All-Conference honorable mention and a Most Improved Player title under her belt, Anderson traveled down to Eckerd to explore the campus and try out for the women’s soccer team. She was sold. Starting as a freshman and scoring two collegiate goals are now among her list of accomplishments. She knows that soccer isn’t just about her, “it’s about always trying to get better individually, to better your team as a whole.”

Cassie Burke came to Eckerd with a slightly different agenda. While soccer has always been a part of her life, she did not come to Florida with the intention to play. She wanted to focus on Marine Science, the other passion in her life. When she got down here, she found out that Johnson, one of her fellow teammates from her club team, the Minnesota Thunder Academy, played on the team for Eckerd. Burke has bounced around from team to team for most of her life, and with a new found spark of interest in soccer, she approached Coach McCauley at the start of the season in hopes that it was not too late to become a bigger part of another team.

McCauley explains, “We didn’t discover Cassie until Emily explained that she was here and she wanted to play. We took a look at her and realized that the kid does a pretty good job, and we really liked her. So she didn’t come on board until after the fact, which is kind of unusual in the collegiate athletics, but it happens from time to time.”

When it comes to balancing practices, games, classes, and homework, it is actually harder and more time consuming than to be expected. As a freshman and a newcomer to the team Anderson expresses, “I didn’t think I was actually going to play this year.”

Not only did Anderson start as a freshman for the majority of the season, Burke and Johnson did as well. One might think that it would be less common for freshmen to get a great deal of playing time in their first year. However, the dynamic of the team is a little more interesting and different this year than others. The women’s soccer team is a young team season as there are only six seniors and juniors on the team, collectively. The other eighteen players are freshmen and sophomores. With a roster like that McCauley explains that it makes things less competitive for a newcomer to the team.

“We brought in a big freshman class and they have had a very open opportunity to play. Most freshmen may not have gotten to play had we had a bigger upper class. It’s good and it’s bad because we have to depend on a lot of freshmen who aren’t quite seasoned yet to the college game and they’ve had to take their licks this season, so to speak, to get their feet wet, but they’ve done a good job.”

Johnson, Anderson and Burke all seem carefree, sitting around in a circle laughing about this and that, but when asked about what means most to them about soccer the answer is pretty unanimous. Burke states with genuine sincerity “my teammates. They are like another family and are some of my closest friends.” Johnson and Anderson are in agreement.
According to the trio, there is something special about Minnesota, it is quite different from Florida. The three explain that it’s not just the heat, but the people who live in Minnesota are different; Johnson states that “[Minnesotans] are a lot nicer. They are more polite.”

Having someone else, let alone two other people, around who understands your background, where you come from and the life that you are accustomed to really offers comfort and support when trying to adapt to a new school, a new team, and a new way of life. Each player is able to turn to one another and depend on each other, both on and off the field, and that is what makes the bond of the women’s soccer team so strong