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  • Matt Ondesko

Bigger than herself

By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Fredonia Athletics

It’s a given right?

All those years of playing soccer. All those years of giving up vacations, and your summers, so you play at the highest level. Travels teams are the way to go if you want to get noticed by the college coaches.

You have worked hard for all these years to try and earn a Division I scholarship. The scholarship that you have been dreaming off. But, the offer never came. There are different reasons why it might not have come - too many to think off.

All is not lost. Soccer is still in your further, maybe at the Division II or III level. At the end of the day it’s all about getting an education anyway. You were going to use soccer to get what you wanted - a solid degree so help your future.

Fredonia State College women’s soccer player Lauren Cullinan played on some of the best Clarence High School soccer teams in Western New York. During her time there, the team was riddled with Division I talent.

Coaches where coming to see the girls play, which in turn helped other girls get recruited.

“Originally, I wanted to get as far away away from Buffalo or WNY as a whole. To be honest, in high school, I did not have many offers and not a lot of schools were interested in me. I think because I played amongst a great group of girls I was often overlooked. I had interest from a school mid-state and one DII school in New Jersey, but I just could not see myself living there and enjoying myself separate from soccer,” stated Cullinan. “Honestly, I think I chose Fredonia because I knew what to expect. I had coach Case as a club coach and I liked what he had planned for the four years I would be attending Fredonia. I felt as though I would be a big part in trying to turn the program around and I wanted to be a part of something big like that. Another crucial part of choosing a DIII program was that I can major in Biology, have friends outside of soccer, and still play. It is a healthy balance for me.”

In high school, Cullinan ran everything in the midfield. She went to Fredonai thinking the same thing that she was going to be the playmaker. However, the coaches had a different set of plans for her.

Instead of playing in the middle, Cullinan was going to lead the team from the back. She made the move without complaint and the team has been better for it.

“When I was originally recruited the intent was for me to play in the midfield for four years. However, personnel wise, it just made more sense for me to control and organize the team from the center back position,” stated Cullinan. “I consider that an honor as it shows both my team and coach have faith in me and trust me with a big responsibility. I am fortunate enough to be able to log minutes in the midfield and let my speed and tenacity drive the offense and I love being able to do that.”

She also loves being relied on. Since her sophomore year, Cullinan has been one of the captains on the team. Being a captain as an underclassman was a huge honor, and one that she didn’t take lightly.

This wasn’t her first go around leading a team. Cullinan also did that is high school. But, college is different. Being a leader is college is a big difference. High School, the girls kind of just did their own thing.

In college, the team is together more. It’s almost like having a second family. In some cases, you see your soccer family more than your regular family.

“This is my second year being a captain and the pride I take in being one is vast. Being a captain of a collegiate team is much more than being a captain on the soccer field. It requires helping people adjust to a whole new environment and a new way of life,” stated Cullinan. “I feel like it is more difficult being a captain of a collegiate team because we are together a lot more. We’re much more involved in each other’s personal lives so, as a captain, I have to be able to be a mentor off the field too. There’s a lot more adversity on a college team too and I have to be able to help people through it.”

Cullinan also had to get used to losing.

Coming from a Clarence team that never seemed to lose to a team that was rebuilding was a stretch for Cullinan. It took a little time to get used to it, but now she feels it is more rewarding. Cullinan has seen the progress from year one to year three - and she is happy she made the choice to attend Fredonia.

She also is finally used to playing two games in two days. Even in high school, teams didn’t play back-to-back too often. In college, however, the league plays on Friday and Saturday. It allows for a team to get over a loss quickly and get right back out there and try and right the wrong.

“Going from a successful program to one that is on the uprise was a difficult transition for me for sure. I knew what I committed to when I said “Yes” to Fredonia my junior year, but seeing the progress the program has made from my freshman year to my now junior year is extremely rewarding, like I really don’t have words to describe how it feels,” stated Cullinan. “As far as getting over a loss quickly, we have such quick turn arounds on the weekends with back to back games it is crucial to let a loss go and move on or it’ll only make you worry for your next game. I learned early my freshman year how important it is to focus on the present and not on the past.”

While only a junior, Cullinan is already thinking about the future. At some point, the Clarence native would love to go back to medical school and be a psychiatrist. It’s the whole giving back and being a bigger part of something bigger than herself.

“I really would love to go to Medical School and pursue a career as a psychiatrist. I think it goes back to me being a part of something bigger than myself,” stated Cullinan “That’s the PLAN, but that MCAT is scary so who knows.”


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