Special Senior Night for Salmon
Michelle Salmon

Oct. 20, 2011

By Megan Roehm

The University of Cincinnati women's soccer team will wrap up regular season play on Saturday, where they will honor the senior class during Senior Day ceremonies before the game at Gettler Stadium. According to head coach Michelle Salmon, there is a lot to appreciate when it comes to these players.

Seniors Erin Kaufman, Kelli Pawelko, Erin Petree, Lauren Romanelli, Kay Young, Logan Ballinger and Emily Hebbeler have been at UC as long as Salmon has been coaching here and she describes them as great leaders and the most crucial part in helping the soccer program excel in general.

"They are a special group and they understand the vision," Salmon said. "They understand where we are going as a program, they understand the goals and the objectives of what we want to accomplish and they have done all the heavy lifting."

Salmon said this team has accomplished much more than most senior classes have in the past and they deserve the recognition for doing such great things.

"This senior class is the first group that has four All Academic NCAA awards, which hasn't been done in program history and is the first team that has ever played in front of a sell-out crowd at Gettler Stadium for men or women," she said. "That's pretty special. This class has had the highest ranking in program history and has been successful on so many levels and I hope it doesn't go unnoticed."

The seniors credit much of this success to the relationships they had on the team with each other, Coach Salmon and the younger players. Pawelko, a defender, said the closeness of the team as a whole made a huge impact on the success of the season.



"I think one of the main differences this year is all the girls are so close from freshmen to seniors and everyone got along really well," she said. "There has been a really strong bond between us."

Kaufman, also a defender, agrees that the bond has been a huge benefit and believes that it will keep the team strong for years to come.

"I think because of how close our team is this year from seniors to freshmen has really helped them learn how the BIG EAST works very quickly," she said. I think that will help them succeed because they have a good understanding of what they need to do."

These relationships go far beyond the field, as the players agreed that the friendships they have formed over the last four years are what they will miss most, right next to playing the game.

"One of the things I will miss most is the family aspect of it," midfielder Ballinger said. "No matter what, you have 30 girls behind you to support you or to turn to and they are always there for you."

Another important relationship for the team is with their coach, whom they all say, has had an impact on them in both soccer and in life. They said she not only helped them become better players, but Salmon was there for them in every way possible when anyone needed her.

"She has taken on a lot of different roles over the years: a therapist, a parent, a friend, a teacher--so along the way she has become so much more than just a coach," Pawelko said.

As seniors and student athletes, the team said they have learned responsibility, teamwork, how to face challenges and make sacrifices, and have overall matured faster and better than they thought they could. As they move on to work and the real world, they will take with them everything they learned at Cincinnati and not just what they learned in soccer.

"I came from a really small town and Michelle and the coaching staff as well as being at a bigger city school have really opened me up to a lot of new things," Young, a senior defender said. "I have matured more and we have to face challenges. There are a lot of things that I am more aware of now than I was."

Salmon sees the maturity of her players as well and it assures her that the senior class she credits so much success to will continue to accomplish so much more after school. She sees certain qualities in each player whether it is a sense of humor, commitment, hard work or confidence; and she said this is a group of young women that will not only do well and stand out in their careers, but will be the "leaders in their fields."

Above all, as the season comes to a close, Salmon and the team are proud of where they have come in the program and as the seniors move on to the next stage of their lives, they will always credit their success to this program and the game. As for Salmon, she will continue to credit the success of her soccer program to these seven young women who helped it become what it is today.

"This team and this program is better because these guys came through it," she said. "They brought such grace, elegance, pride, and tremendous leadership and to be frank, they are he best role models anyone could ask for."