Looking back on my athletic career at Yale, I am fortunate enough to be able to review not just four, but eight seasons. While at times it was difficult to balance playing soccer and lacrosse, I think my athletic experience overall is very similar to that of every other athlete at this university — just with a greater number of grueling preseasons, devastating defeats and exhilarating victories.

Despite the obvious differences in the games of soccer and lacrosse, my experience with these two teams over the last four years was very comparable — marked by increased competitiveness in the Ivy League and in the nation.

After my sophomore year, both teams recognized that in order to “get to the next level” we needed to make the NCAA tournament; we no longer were going to “settle” for an ECAC tournament invitation. And while a soccer and a lacrosse NCAA tournament bid will forever remain absent from my Yale career, the pursuit of that goal was well worth the hard work and sacrifices. For in chasing that dream, my teammates, coaches and I have brought both teams to the brink of making the dream a reality.

Whether it began with our fitness — each team running harder, longer and faster than the seasons before — or with an increased emphasis on stick/ball skills, or with recruiting more talented and committed athletes each year, the end result has been the same. We’ve seen the fruits of our hard work pay off in proving to ourselves, to the Ivy League, and to the nation that Yale soccer and Yale lacrosse are two teams that are excellent winning programs capable of beating any team in the nation on any given day.

To this end, it has been an honor to represent Yale in this journey. Athletic success has not only brought us fellow athletes closer together, but has brought us fellow Yalies together. Nothing unites a student body or instills school spirit like winning the Yale-Harvard game or beating those Tigers. My two teams are examples of how Yale athletics is growing in reputation as a leading institution for not only academics, but athletics as well. Yale affords athletes the opportunity to challenge not only our minds, but also our bodies. I am grateful of having had the opportunity to strive for excellence in the classroom and on the athletics fields.

I’m sure that every other graduating athlete will take with them very similar memories of that heartbreaking overtime loss, to Harvard in soccer and Cornell in lacrosse; or that unbelievable victory over a perennial powerhouse, like beating UConn and Ivy Champion Princeton in soccer or Duke and Dartmouth both twice in lacrosse; or that memorable road trip, to Europe with soccer and to Disney with lacrosse.

But I think I can speak for all of us when I say that what will be most memorable for all of us are our teammates — the teammates that were awake with us at 7 a.m. to run/swim/row/lift/etc.; the teammates that pushed us to demand and receive more than we thought possible from our bodies; the teammates that we went out with to celebrate our big victories and to mourn our losses; the teammates who were not with us as we competed during our senior seasons, but were there cheering from the stands; and the teammates who will be our friends long into the future.

Megan Strenski is a senior in Morse College and the 2002 women’s lacrosse captain.