For four Hiram College freshmen, the first week of college has been more than a time for new beginnings; it’s been a chance to reunite with childhood friends.
Katelyn Mauch, Tori Grucza, Taylor Berenda and Ashley Myer became best friends while playing on the Parma Hawks travel soccer team around the age of 10; at the time, they all went to separate grade schools. Three of the four –Mauch, Grucza and Berenda – later united on the same team at Normandy High School, but Myer played for Parma High School.
Now, nearly a decade after becoming best friends through soccer, the four are once again united, this time on the Hiram College women’s soccer team. They didn’t seek out for it to happen that way, but after they all visited different schools, Hiram ended up being the right fit.
“We were interested in where each other was looking, and we all had our second and third choice,” said Mauch, a nursing major. “But we all chose Hiram for our own reasons.”
The supportive nature of Hiram– both in academics and on the athletic field, evident through meeting Head Women’s Soccer Coach Bob Dean – proved to be a key factor in each of the girls’ decisions.
“I came because of the faculty,” said Myer, a double major in management and communication. “Every time I visited, everyone had a smile on their face and the environment was really friendly and welcoming. Coach Dean was very caring and drove up to my hometown to have coffee with me. That says a lot.”
The girls arrived at Hiram College on Aug. 16 along with other fall athletes, a week before the rest of the freshman class. All were team captains in high school, and they said they enjoy playing on a team where everyone works hard.
“It’s a lot better than high school,” Myer said. “The energy is fantastic, and everyone is so supportive.”
Because they’ve known each other so long, they’ve watched each other grow up and seen traditions evolve. They laugh as they reminisce about lunches at Buffalo Wild Wings and stopping to pose for a picture after every game.
“I always had a goofy face in the picture,” said Grucza, an education major. “I’m kind of like that still. That’s just how I am; I’m goofy, I guess.”
Now, they, along with the rest of the Hiram College women’s soccer team have a new tradition: They chant “Family,” at the end of each game, a true reflection close-knit bond they’ve formed over the years.
It was never a question for any of them to give up soccer in college, and they feel ready to support one another as they take on the new challenge of balancing soccer and academics.
“I don’t think any of us could imagine not playing soccer,” Mauch said. “I know we all can do it. Everyone’s a family. It will carry off the field into academics.”
The women’s soccer team begins its season on Sept. 1.