Marcus Chmielewski (junior) said there is nowhere else he would rather be than on the Occidental men’s soccer team. Chmielewski plays forward and has been on the team since his first year, when he was able to play informally with some of the senior players. He said now on his second year of playing with the team in person, Chmielewski said he is excited to build on his growth from last season.
“There were a lot of new experiences and a lot of changes, and I was just excited to be a part of the program and a part of the family,” Chmielewski said. “I was excited to contribute to the team and the success we had. I think that continues on into this season. I’ve really enjoyed improving as a player and solidifying my role on the team and being a part of the success on and off the field.”
Evan Karp (junior), Chmielewski’s friend and teammate, said Chmielewski has brought both light-hearted humor and intensity to the pitch.
“Marcus is a very explosive player who always makes his presence known during games,” Karl said. “He gets the crowd involved with dazzling runs through the opponents defense, deft flicks and impressive acrobatic finishes like the one against Caltech this year.”
Karp said that Chmielewski has had a huge positive impact on the team and is always there to celebrate his teammate’s accomplishments.
“Last year during a break in SCIAC play we had a home game against UC Santa Cruz. During that game I scored my first collegiate goal and Marcus was the first person to be there to celebrate with me,” Karp said. “Of course, later in the game he blew my goal out of the water scoring a beautiful bicycle kick. Somehow, his celebrations for my goal were even more jubilant than when he scored the Oxy goal of the season.”
Chmielewski said he is still figuring out how to balance academics and soccer, especially now that classes are fully in-person.
“Last year it was really difficult because I had to balance being a sophomore and coming to school for the first time. It’s even harder this year because of the course load and being a junior. It’s very manageable once you learn it and you figure out what works for you,” Chmielewski said.
Though it comes with challenges, Chmielewski said he loves being part of the program.
“I’m looking forward to all the incredible memories I’m going to make with this family,” Chmielewski said. “Last year was one of the best years of my life and I couldn’t imagine this year being any different. These guys give everything every single day, and I couldn’t be more happy to be a part of this program.”
Despite being a new addition to the Occidental women’s cross-country team, Jenna LeNay (first year) has already found her footing. LeNay took second place in the 3.27k during a tri-meet against Pomona and LaVerne at the beginning of the season. This past weekend, LeNay traveled to Michigan to compete with her team at pre-nationals. She took 56th place overall, with the fastest time among her Occidental teammates. In addition to performing well on the course, LeNay said the trip to Michigan was an opportunity to bond with her fellow runners.
“We went to dinner with 16 of the runners, and I got to get a lot closer to them. We had a lot of time outside of running to hang out and talk,” LeNay said.
LeNay said participating in the sport has been a great way to meet new people and to destress. LeNay said her teammates and coaches all look out for each other and want everyone to be successful.
“It’s been really fun so far. I really like this team,” LeNay said. “It’s a great dynamic – great coaching.”
LeNay’s friend and teammate Megan Cover (first year) said LeNay is a bubbly, spirited and positive person who always tries her best no matter what. Cover said she and LeNay have a lot of fun together during and outside of practice, and that they are constantly making new memories together. Cover said this is because LeNay is such a great person to be around, no matter what they are doing.
“Even though she’s definitely the fastest girl on the team, she doesn’t carry that around as something that makes her better than us,” Cover said. “She’s very humble in a way that shocks me because she’s so fast. Physically she’s very strong, but she’s also very mentally strong.”
LeNay, like many of her fellow first-year student athletes, said she is finding a balance between sports and academics. Though it can be stressful at times, she said the coaches have been very accommodating and make sure the athletes put school first. LeNay said she is looking forward to increasing her confidence as a student and as an athlete.
“Getting more confident and increasing my mental strength, especially while I’m running, is something I definitely need to work on and something I can improve,” Lenay said. “That’s something I’m excited to work on throughout the season.”
Contact Eliza Kirk at Ekirk@oxy.edu