Emily Dzik, Molli Krick, Bianca Rossi, Chelsie Oddan, Marisa Kosikowski, Angela Vultaggio, Martha Stevens and Jenna O’Dell are all wrapping up their time with the Eastern Michigan University soccer team.
I was able to talk with all but three of them in a round-table discussion about their experiences as Eagles before their game against Bowling Green last week – the regular season finale.
I spoke with O’Dell and Oddan after the team’s Senior Day win against Ohio University on Oct. 19. Unfortunately, Vultaggio’s schedule did not permit her to be a part of the story.
Oddan (ACL) and O’Dell (hip) each had two surgeries in as many years, but both rebounded in 2014. Oddan scored her first three career goals this season and O’Dell won the start against Ohio – only her second start of the season.
O’Dell was the starting goalkeeper two years ago, but has been playing behind up-and-coming junior Megan McCabe.
“It’s been an experience definitely,” she said. “I had two hip surgeries, so coming back I feel stronger than ever. I feel like I accomplished a lot in my time here and I’ve really grown as a person and learned a lot about myself as a person and as a soccer player. Transferring here my sophomore year was probably my best decision that I’ve ever made. I’m a lot happier and I love everyone on the team.”
“Like I’ve said all year – we have two really good goalkeepers,” EMU coach Scott Hall said after the team’s win on Senior Day. “It’s hard when you’ve got two good goalkeepers and Megan McCabe’s been playing really really well … when push comes to shove you have another goalkeeper [O’Dell] you can put in [that] you’re confident with and the players are confident with – we’re pretty spoiled, I have to say.”
Oddan was named The Eastern Echo’s Eagle of the Week after scoring the game-winning goal on Senior Day.
“It’s been an amazing experience [at Eastern],” she said. “It’s been a great journey. It’s definitely had its ups and downs, but it’s been a great experience.”
O’Dell said the work ethic of the seniors stood out to her. That work ethic, she said, translated to the rest of the team.
“They [the seniors] work hard,” O’Dell said. “I feel like if they [the team] see someone working hard, they work hard … it’s contagious.”
Four things to take away
Some of the seniors had different things to take away from their time at EMU, and chief among them was the value of time management.
“I think being able to balance soccer and school,” Rossi said. “Time management, maybe.”
“Yeah, time management is definitely a good one,” Dzik said, echoing her teammate.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions was another takeaway from the senior class.
“Being accountable for whatever you’re doing in the world,” Kosikowski said. “[Whether] as a teammate or applying for a job or something like that. Definitely accountability”
The most meaningful answer had nothing to do with time management or accountability.
“I think it’s [our time here] made us grow up a lot,” Dzik said. “If we’ve learned one thing it’s that sometimes things aren’t fair and situations aren’t ideal, but it’s how you react to it and how you carry yourself [that matters].”
Dzik was named a finalist for the Senior CLASS award on Oct. 21.
The big games that matter most
The Eagles have played some important games the last four years. Winning two MAC regular season titles – the second coming after this interview took place – competing against quality opponents from major conferences and overcoming adversity both on and off the field have left their mark on the graduating seniors.
“I think one of the big games for me was taking [the University of Michigan] to overtime last year,” Krick said.
That was met with a unanimous “yeah, that was a good one” from Kosikowski, Rossi, Stevens and Dzik.
“Everyone was cheering for EMU on the bench and that was one of the biggest game experiences [for me],” Krick added.
The Eagles lost 2-1 in that game.
“Playing Oregon was cool,” Dzik said of the team’s 1-1 tie against the Ducks on Sept. 5.
Her fellow seniors agreed with her. They also said that playing Texas Tech Aug. 31 and winning the Mid-American Conference regular season title last season were also both big moments for them.
Learning: More than just what you see in books
The seniors learned a lot in the classroom in addition to what they did on the field.
“Be passionate about what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life,” Dzik said. “That’s what I learned.”
“Don’t procrastinate,” Stevens said. “I still do that.”
Who taught what?
The lessons the players learned came from a variety of teachers over the last four years.
“I’m in elementary education, so I would definitely have to say my reading professors have definitely taught me a lot that I will use in my major,” Oddan said.
“I’m a communications major and I really enjoy Ray Quiel,” O’Dell said. “I think he’s hilarious. I feel like I can talk to him about anything. Even if I don’t have him [in a] semester, I can go in and say hi and chat about sports. He’s a good guy.”
Dzik said her favorite professor was assistant professor from the nursing department, Angela Lukomski.
“She’s super supportive and always willing to talk and help out her students,” Dzik said. “[She] really goes above and beyond to make you feel like she genuinely cares about you – and every one of her students. And she wants you to succeed.”
“My favorite professor is Shel Levine,” Krick said. “He’s in the exercise science program. He’s really, really helpful and supportive of my goals and he’s been kind of a really good guy, but also pushed me [to do more]. He’s not going to do anything for me, which is really helpful.”
“Mine is Kathryn Vincent from the communications department,” Kosikowski said. “I thought she had a really great personality. She always made me want to come to class and she’s really enthusiastic about what she teaches.”
Passing the torch
With these eight players leaving the team, there will be a definite gap to fill. Oddan and O’Dell shared some insight on Senior Day about the players who will remain.
“I think Hallee [Kansman] is going to be seeing another year,” Oddan said. “I think she’s definitely going to have a big role on this team. I think the juniors will step up – Ellie [Tillar], Jen [Bentley] coming back from her knee injury – I think they will be a big part of this team next year.”
“Like Odie said, Hallee Kansman is coming back, Jen Bentley will be back on the defense,” O’Dell said. “The juniors have McCabe – she’s pretty solid in net, too. I think they’ll be okay.”
Dzik, Rossi, Kosikowski, Krick and Stevens all said they had at least one more semester of classes until they ultimately leave Eastern.
Kosikowski said she was hoping to go to grad school. Stevens has her sights set on veterinary school, while Dzik hopes to pass her nursing boards.
Rossi wants to teach abroad for a year and Krick said she’ll likely be working while she tries to get into PA school.
Leaving their legacy
The seniors had advice for the newest Eagles – the freshmen who will be coming to Eastern after them.
“My advice would definitely be to live it up while you can,” Oddan said. “As you can see, it goes by pretty quickly so make the most of it.”
“Make the most out of your time,” Dzik said.
“Branch out and meet people,” Stevens said. “Freshman year, I didn’t meet a lot of people and then I met a lot of people [later]. I regret not meeting as many people [as I could have]. You learn a lot more things from different people and you make friendships that you don’t [normally make].”
Dzik had the last word.
“Do things that make you uncomfortable in a way that broadens your college experience.”
Editor's note: The team's season ended Sunday with a 2-1 double overtime loss to Western Michigan University in the MAC quarterfinals.
Update: Early Thursday afternoon, Oddan tweeted that she would be with the team for another season. It was not immediately known if she had been granted a medical redshirt for any of her two ACL injuries.
"You get five years to complete four athletic seasons, but can receive a medical redshirt to stretch that out over six years if an injury were to occur during that time," Adam Kuffner, EMU Athletic Media Relations Graduate Assistant said. "In order for Chelsie to return for another season at EMU, she needs to officially be granted another season by the NCAA. Since she missed two seasons (2010 and 2013) due to injury, there is high probability that she will be able to return, but nothing has been confirmed at this point."
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho