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MNE soccer players score goals … and baskets

Thursday, December 17, 2015

When the Mercyhurst North East women’s soccer team ended its season last fall with a 9-4-1 record, sophomore goalie Kym Braine figured it was time to give her shin guards and cleats a well-deserved rest.

But no sooner had she come off a winning soccer season than she learned the MNE ladies basketball team was struggling to fill its roster. It seems they had lost their coach last summer and had only hired a new one days before school started. In the meantime, recruiting activities had been limited, leaving a handful of freshmen and a lone sophomore to fill the roster. 

So Braine (1st, at right) and six other soccer players, most of whom had played basketball in high school, decided to transfer their dribbling skills from their feet to their hands and join the team.

New coach Amy Senefelder was eager to work with a team that demonstrated so much heart.

“They are all buying in; they are getting better every day and that’s all I can ask for at this point,” she said.

Jamaya Shabazz, (2nd, at right) a sophomore basketball player from Cleveland who is studying business and new media, tore her ACL and has been relegated to the bench. Still, she said, she is grateful to the soccer players who stepped up so the Saints could roster a team this season.

For a number of players, the emergent team became something of a reunion. “Some of us had played against each other in high school, both on the court and on the field, so it was fun to all be playing together,” said Braine, a Seneca High School graduate, who is studying hospitality management.

“Even before we knew the basketball team was having problems, though, we had talked about playing both sports, so we were happy to do it,” she said.

Megan McKinney, (3rd, at right) a sophomore forward from Mercer who is studying criminal justice, was equally enthusiastic. Like many of her fellow soccer players, she had earned a scholarship to play soccer at Mercyhurst North East, but she was playing basketball for no other reward than the love of the game.

“It’s been great to help out our school and put a team together, but I just love the sport, so it is a plus-plus for me,” McKinney said.

Women’s Soccer Coach and MNE Saints Sports Information Director Jacob Hordych said the majority of soccer players who agreed to help their fellow athletes on the court had earned “all-region honors” in high school basketball, so the newly constructed team definitely had its share of talent.

“They have a passion for the game,” Hordych said. “Plus, the more sports or activities you are involved in, the better your college experience.”

Because the seven soccer players were still in the midst of their own season last fall when most college basketball teams had begun training, the Saints got a late start and lost their first four games. Their two most recent games, however, ended up in the “win” column.

“We’re a little rocky and we are still learning to play with each other, but I think we’re ready to give the teams coming up a run for their money,” Braine said.

Senefelder agreed. “In the beginning, the expectation was, let’s just get through the season. But now that they have a couple wins, they are extra motivated and definitely want to keep on winning.”