From the start of their college careers as part of a large group of freshmen, living with each other and playing during a pandemic, the students graduated from this year’s Ithaca College women’s football team. are considered the “four cores”.
The college’s women’s soccer program has had only one graduate student on its roster in the past 10 years, leaving seniors to set an example for young players. However, the 2021 roster has four graduate students: Alex Epifani, Kelsey Espenhorst, Kate Kohler, and Rebecca Jackson.
All four players are no strangers to the pitch as Epifani was named All-American in 2018 and 2019. Espenhorst has started in every game this season so far and has started in every college game except one in 2019. Kohler has started in every game this season so far. started 51 games. and counting towards his college career, including every game this year. Jackson has seen the action in every game so far this season, starting five games for the Bombers.
Kohler, a graduate defender and member of the 2018 All Liberty League All-Academic squad, shares a close bond with the other fifth-year players, noting that Espenhorst was his roommate during their freshman year. She said the team chemistry helps translate to success on the pitch.
“From a leadership perspective, it has been very easy to move from that friendship mentality to holding each other accountable on the pitch,” Kohler said. “We trust each other for our lives. Everything is going well and it is so much fun to play with your best friends.
Kohler said she and the team will work to bring a conference championship back to South Hill this season. The team is currently off to an exceptional start with a record of 6-1 on September 25. The team has eight other regulars–matches of the season, all against opponents from the Liberty League, before the conference championship begins on November 2.
“I really want to get the Liberty League Conference title,” Kohler said. “Every year we have the same goal. We want to be the best. To be the best, you have to play the best. We want to reach this national level.
Espenhorst said she appreciated the positive presence the 10 freshmen brought to the team.
“I tend to think that graduate students are more removed from the team than the early years,” Espenhorst said. “They kind of seem to jump in and sometimes I feel more like an outsider. … We are both on opposite ends of the spectrum. So I think it almost creates a similarity between us and this cool dynamic. “
Jackson said she hopes to leave a lasting impression on the freshmen and sophomores, given that neither class has played in a college game heading into the season.
“We can instill the culture that we are proud of in the team to the younger ones,” said Jackson. “It’s good to help them develop them with our experience. “
This year marks Mindy Quigg’s 28th season as the program’s head coach. While she doesn’t have graduate student-athletes on her team as often, she said she shares a strong bond with these four players and believes the presence of veterans has an impact on the dynamics. of the team.
Quigg also said she views her team’s leadership differently because of the leadership styles graduate students have learned from their former teammates, stressing how important honesty and connectedness is with each class.
“I think it’s natural to have an extra connection when you’re spending more time with someone,” Quigg said. “To have had this moment with them and not that they took the leap, I think it makes a difference. This still allows seniors a leadership role, but it gives them a sense of empowerment due to the compatibility between the two classes.
Junior defenseman Rachel Richards said the experience plays a key role in the dynamics the four veterans have set for the team. All team members respect each other regardless of class, playing time or experience.
“I think that sets a good tone because they come back, they come in with experience and they come in with a lot of minutes,” said Richards. “I think they are working with our senior class instead of ignoring them. … Whenever you have a conversation with them, regarding football, you are going to listen. They have a lot of experience. “
Richards also recognized the extent to which the four players would go for the good of their sport and all that comes with it.
“They love soccer and they love the program,” said Richards. ” It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of energy. So being able to come back and put all that time and effort into the program shows how much they love it, how much they appreciate it.
First-year defenseman Carolina Cedraschi said this the presence of the team’s veterans has a positive impact on its development and this she doesn’t let the larger age gap affect her relationship with them.
“They give you a lot of advice, especially on the pitch,” she said. “I really admired Kate [Kohler] mostly because she gave me a lot of advice as a defensive player. They can be intimidating at first, but as you get more comfortable on the pitch I think it’s a great environment because they’re so welcoming.