SANTA CLARA, Calif. - With the rare chance to face Bronco teammates in competitive matches this spring, three Santa Clara women's soccer players participated in the U-20 and U-23 National Camps in June. Juniors Meleana Shim and Morgan Marlborough played for the U-23 team and took on sophomore Julie Johnston and the U-20 team in two competitive matches. Both games ended in ties, 4-4 and 3-3, but all three Broncos enjoyed the experience of facing teammates.
"It was actually really funny to see your teammate on an opposing team even though we play with each other almost everyday," said Johnston. "It was also interesting because I play with Meleana and Morgan so much I know how they play and their strengths and weaknesses. It still became a battle and our nature is just so competitive that at times I didn't know if I should say something on the field to them. It felt odd not to, but at the end we all gave each other big hugs and shared laughs."
"There is always a high level of competition when Julie and I go up against each other," added Shim. "All three of us love to compete. When it comes to anything where there's a winner and a loser, it's not hard to motivate us. With that being said, there was something special about playing with the national team program with all three of us on the field. Even though we (U-23s) were trying to beat the U-20s, Morgan and I still enjoying seeing our fellow Bronco doing some big things on their end."
As Shim alluded to, all three Broncos are so competitive that there is no need for extra motivation to get them playing all out. Still, the combination of facing an SCU teammate and competing for their country added something extra to the match-ups.
"Playing against each other gave me more motivation because just like at SCU we are very competitive and don't like to lose," said Johnston. "It gave more motivation for my teammates to see me play and give me honest feedback first hand."
"I think there is always motivation whenever you are wearing the US crest on your chest, regardless of who you are playing against," added Marlborough.
Aside from seeing a familiar face on the opposing side of the field, national camps differ from Santa Clara practices in several ways, most notably the intensity due to competition for a roster spot.
"The U-23 national team was a great experience because I got a chance to play with some pro and some college players from all over the country," said Shim. "Everyone is good and the speed of play is fast. The social aspect is very different because everyone is competing for a spot on the next trip and we only get to spend a week together. Even with that competition, I was happy about making some new friends."
"The national camps are just naturally more intense because of the level of play," said Johnston. "National camp is very competitive and informational. Playing at SCU with these girls everyday, it's easier to know how the others play, whereas at camp learning new players takes a lot out of you mentally."
As beneficial as the national camps are from a soccer perspective, these are still student-athletes and participation means missing valuable time in the classroom.
"Being a student-athlete is not easy and not being here for days at a time is one of the hardest things I have had to do mentally and physically," said Johnston. "At the same time it has made me a very strong person and extremely proud of myself for being able to manage it."
"Being busy and dedicated to soccer my entire life, I have had to develop sufficient time management skills," added Marlborough. "So understanding how to organize and prioritize my work really helps me stay on track with school without getting too stressed out."
All three players have left to continue their dreams of competing for the United States. Shim and Marlborough are currently in Norway for a Three Nations Tournament while Johnston is in Japan getting ready for the U-20 World Cup that will take place from Aug. 19 through Sept. 8 where she will train for a couple of weeks.