Elysia Masters contends that when she was selecting a college, her decision was based first and foremost on the quality of the soccer program.
Academics were secondary. Allegedly.
“I definitely chose Memphis for soccer,” the Rochester Lady Lancers midfielder/defender said. “I was only going to compete at a high level for one period of my life.”
Had the University of Memphis not been magna cum laude in soccer, she’d have gone elsewhere.
“I could be smart later,” Masters said.
Except her degree in biomedical engineering from the Tennessee institution is obviously proof that Masters was quite smart at the same time she was playing soccer for four years for the Tigers.
After all, how many people do you know that, when asked what they do for a living, proudly say “grow bacteria.”
But with her collegiate career behind her, Masters has now moved on to the “smart” period of her life. She’s enrolled at the University of Rochester to continue to pursue her PhD.
The 22-year-old native of Burlington, Ontario, just completed the first year in what is a five-year program that eventually will lead to full-time work in medical research. She’ll delve into, and attempt all there is to learn about, things like bone infections.
Now you know why her bio on RLancers.com says the three people she’d like to have dinner with are Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and George Stokes.
Masters hasn’t buried her soccer cleats in the closet just yet, however. She has found a home with the Lady Lancers of United Women’s Soccer.
“The academics at the University of Rochester are unbelievable and this is a great opportunity to keep playing after retirement,” Masters said Sunday following another painful loss, this time 2-1 to the New England Mutiny. “I’m certainly happy that there’s a high level of soccer here.”
Playing for the Lady Lancers wasn’t part of her original plans. She was doing her best to move on without the game, “playing in silly co-ed leagues” for the social and cardio benefits, not for any competitive thrills.
But then Lady Lancers striker Taylor Wingerden put her scouting talents to use and suggested Masters join the first-year UWS team. It was a perfect fit. Masters provides poise and confidence on the pitch, as well as the experience and skills of a four-year NCAA Division I veteran.
“This has worked out well because it was tough not playing (at a high level); I was going crazy not competing,” she said. “I tried running but that was no fun.”
The one negative: The Lancers aren’t winning. The loss to New England dropped them to 0-5-1. They have made considerable progress, however. On May 14, the Mutiny defeated Rochester 5-1.
Masters said the players are committed to improving, and to each other.
“There’s no other team I’d rather lose with,” she said. “That may sound weird but if this was any other group, I’d probably be losing my mind. With this group, it works. We keep each other motivated.”
On Sunday on Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Aquinas Institute, the Lady Lancers were often the better team. They scored in the game’s first minute, with Kara Shue converting a pass from Wingerden, but gave up the tying goal to Kate Howarth on a penalty kick in the 31st minute and the winning goal to Brenna Brown in the 63rd minute.
The goal on the PK stung badly. The Lancers disputed a foul committed.
“Unfortunately we fell victim to a pretty bad call,” Lancers coach Loren Inglese said. “At this level, those mistakes are tough to recover fROm. We gave up maybe three quality chances.”
The Lancers, however, just aren’t scoring enough. They have four goals in six games, and never more than one a day.
“We have what we need to score,” Inglese said. “Now we need to be as clinical as the other teams. I thought we played really well for 75 to 80 minutes. You saw what we are like when we stick to a plan and I think the ladies are earning some respect in the league.”