Bucks County Herald

Winning formula

CB South’s Upton shines bright for McDaniel

DON LEYPOLDT



CB South’s Kristen Upton has helped carry the torch for McDaniel College women’s soccer. Upton, a defensive standout, and her Green Terror teammates allowed only 13 goals in 22 games last season.

Kristen Upton, a rising senior at McDaniel, has become very knowledgeable about “chemistry.”

Chemistry underlies her favorite memories of playing soccer at Central Bucks South.

“I remember the bus rides,” Upton smiled. “After both wins and losses: hanging out with the girls, singing off key and really just having fun.”

Team chemistry grew last August when Upton, a defender, and her McDaniel teammates played four friendlies during a 10-day tour of Spain.

“It’s like taking your 20 closest friends, going on a road trip and getting to play the sport you love,” Upton pointed out. “It was absolutely amazing.”

While immersing themselves in the culture of futbol-mad Espana was special, “the fact that we got to go abroad and experience something new for everyone in the group was really cool,” Upton noted, “and brought us together more.”

That chemistry helped the Green Terror better the best season in school history. McDaniel set its single-season wins record and made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2015. Upton’s seven goals, incredible from the defensive position, ranked fourth on the team.

But the Green Terror improved in every which way last fall. They finished at 18-3-1, shattering their 15 wins of the prior year. McDaniel went undefeated in the Centennial and claimed its first-ever conference title.

Whereas McDaniel was one and done in the 2015 NCAAs, it dominated Farmingdale State, 4-1, and Connecticut College, 3-1, in the second weekend of November to advance to the Sweet 16.

“NCAAs, to me, were just another game,” Upton admitted. “I should be putting out 100 percent every game. But we won our first round and then won again. After that, everyone was so happy and we realized that all of the work that we had put in was paying off.

“I was extremely proud of how, as we got into the postseason, everyone kept working so hard. We wanted that conference championship and we wanted to get to the Sweet 16,” she concluded.

A big reason for the success was McDaniel’s suffocating defense, which yielded just 13 goals in 22 games. And a big reason for the defense’s success was communication and ... chemistry.

“We all work to support each other and we run off of a lot of communication,” said Upton, who earned first-team all-conference honors and a spot on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) all-region team. “Talking about: ‘This mark’s here. Someone is coming in.’ Our forwards are some of the best in the conference, if not the country, so getting to practice against them every day definitely helps us. It’s a lot of touch tight in the box, connecting the passes out or looking for that long ball forward.”

Upton scored four more goals in 2016. Her tally on Oct. 13 spoke for itself in McDaniel’s 1-0 conference win over Franklin & Marshall.

Upton also scored just 96 seconds into the Centennial Conference semifinal, a 3-1 McDaniel triumph over Gettysburg that marked the Green Terror’s first-ever conference tournament victory.

More impressive than all of this is Upton’s knowledge of chemistry. As in ... chemistry. Ions, Avogadro’s number and noble gases. That chemistry. Upton had the highest GPA on the all-conference soccer team. She was named an academic all-American and the 2016 Centennial Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year in women’s soccer.

“Kristen is an amazing leader in our program and will serve as a captain her senior season. She is one of the most focused student-athletes I have ever coached,” McDaniel head coach Sandy Lagana wrote. “She excels in the classroom as she pursues her dream of becoming a doctor and excels on the field as a major force in our success. I believe in her and I am so proud of her.”

“I definitely want to go into the medical field. I was sick when I was growing up, so that is the field [where] I belong, too,” shared Upton, a double major in – you guessed it – biochemistry and exercise chemistry. “I want to give back and help some other children.

“The hard work I put in on the field and in the classroom is going to pay off later on,” continued Upton, who is seriously considering becoming a pediatrician. “I’ve always loved learning and was always asking questions growing up, so – it sounds weird – but I don’t mind studying.”

McDaniel opens its 2017 season on Sept. 1 against William Smith in the Salisbury University Classic in Salisbury, Md. The Green Terror will face Shenandoah the next day in the classic. Soon it will be the regimen of class-practice-library for Upton ... not that she minds.

“We worked really hard in the spring and we’re at the level that we were last year,” Upton stated. “It’s nice to see that we are just as competitive of a team that could achieve everything, and potentially more than we did last year.”

Upton could possibly break McDaniel’s career games played record this November.

“I will do my job for my team and hopefully we can go get some wins,” she concluded, “and have another great season.”

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