First years shine in The Occidental’s Athlete of the Week

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Thomas Mercogliano (first year), this week’s athlete of the week, is a member of the men’s football team at Occidental College. Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental Kyra Bethune (first year), this week’s athlete of the week, is a member of the women’s soccer team at Occidental College. Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental

Thomas Mercogliano:

Thomas Mercogliano (first year) threw the first touchdown pass of his college career Sept. 7 in Occidental’s 38–7 home opener against Centro de Enseñanza Técnica y Superior (CETYS). Mercogliano’s touchdown also came on his first snap as an Occidental quarterback.

In the second half, Mercogliano got his opportunity after quarterback Joshua Greaves (senior) left the game with three touchdown passes. According to Mercogliano, Occidental’s strong defensive play set up his touchdown.

“We got great field position by our defense who made a pick, then it was just another one of those plays from practice,” Mercogliano said. “The receiver Dan Marlow ran his route, I rolled out right, threw it and it was just like practice.”

After leading his high school in all-time rushing and passing yards, Mercogliano said Occidental’s offensive scheme is what he had to adjust to most in college.

“Oxy runs a triple-option offense so it’s a lot of decision-making on the quarterback. That’s what I’ve really had to learn,” Mercogliano said. “In high school I ran what’s called a run pass option, but in this we have two different reads, we can either give the ball, run ourselves or pitch the ball.”

Despite his early success this season, Mercogliano said he is focused on the bigger picture.

“I just want to keep working and help the team win more games,” Mercogliano said. “Having my first pass, my first ever play be a touchdown is super encouraging, but I’m definitely going to keep a level head and just keep grinding.”

While he remains focused, the gravity of the moment was not lost on the first year.

“It was a great way to start off my college career,” Mercogliano said. “It couldn’t have happened any better, and I’m super pumped to continue through the season and hopefully the next three years after this are going to be great as well.”

According to Mercogliano, Occidental football recognizes that it is rebuilding, but that hasn’t affected the team’s ultimate goal.

“I think definitely the team’s goals should be and are just winning more games. Winning more games than last year, kind of continuing that building, redeveloping stage that we’re going through,” Mercogliano said. “Coach Cushman and all the other coaches are doing a great job of recruiting new athletes and kind of getting the football program back and rolling at Occidental, which is awesome.”

In addition to his success on the football field, Mercogliano plays piano, performs in theater and is a four-time state champion in alpine ski racing.

Kyra Bethune:

Kyra Bethune (first year) scored her first goal in the Occidental uniform Sept. 7 in a 6–0 rout of the University of St. Katherine.

Coming off the bench, Bethune fired in Occidental’s second goal of the contest in the 35th minute.

“I had just had a brief talk with my assistant coach about creating opportunities for the forwards, and the play was me doing that, but I ended up finishing the ball,” said Bethune.

Head coach Colm McFeely also said Bethune’s perseverance after the pass is a key attribute of her play.

“Some players sort of get stuck in the camera moment of ‘Oh that was a nice pass,’” McFeely said. “She plays it and she goes and looks to help in the return and moves off the ball again.”

According to Bethune, steady improvement is her main objective as the season progresses.

“My personal goals are to just improve as much as I can, and the team does a really good job of pushing each other every single practice to be the best athlete that you can,” Bethune said. “I think that I’m just looking to get faster, stronger, smarter in every way that I can.”

As last year’s SCIAC champions, Occidental’s women’s soccer team does notplan on slowing down, according to Bethune.

“Last year we were SCIAC champions, and we’re looking to repeat that again,” Bethune said. “Because of that we’re just pushing each other constantly to improve and be the best athletes we can on and off the field.”

According to Bethune, some of that competitive attitude comes from her sister Danika, a former all-region soccer player at Pomona-Pitzer.

“I probably would not be here playing college soccer without that sisterly competition that we have,” Bethune said. “I’ve always looked up to her as an athlete and she pushed me to be the athlete that I am today.”

Although her sights are already set on getting back to work on her game, Bethune said her first college goal was one to remember.

“To have the support of my teammates and the coaching staff there with me, that was all I could hope for. That was amazing. Just the best feeling in the world,” Bethune said.

Bethune is also an avid rock climber and a member of the Oxy Democrats and the Occidental College Law Society.