Tara McDermott
Tara McDermott of the Women's Soccer Team. (Photo by Lee Ferris, Mount Saint Mary College)

MSMC Knights: Work Hard, Play Hard

by John Buckridge

For many athletes, the sport they play is a lifelong passion beginning at an early age. That’s the case with Mount Saint Mary College senior Tara McDermott, who has played soccer from the ripe age of three and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Over the past four years playing as a Knight, Tara’s number one passion has taken her to impressive new heights she had never dreamed of.

As soon as McDermott was able to run, she started playing soccer. In high school she ventured out and played other sports like basketball, but soccer was always her true calling. Not only did she play for Voorhees High School, but McDermott surrounded herself with the sport by also playing for two travel teams simultaneously.

“It’s easy to love a sport so much if you become good at it, but I also love soccer because it’s truly a team sport that requires everyone on the field working together at once,” said McDermott.

McDermott was not officially recruited by MSMC, but was talked into coming to visit the college by the women’s soccer coach at the time, Frank Martini. Martini had shown up at several of McDermott’s games and showed a clear interest in the center-back’s skills. He promised McDermott a starting position as a freshman; that immediate confidence in her was enough to convince her to join the Knights.

McDermott justified the faith that Coach Martini had in her by making an immediate impact in her first season. She started in all 22 games, recording seven assists, 11 points, and scoring two goals on defense. She exceeded her own expectations by being named to the Skyline All-Conference First Team.

“I don’t want to say that I was surprised by all of it because I was well aware of my capabilities, but I just did not expect to make All-Conference right away,” McDermott explained.

McDermott’s efforts were recognized by her own teammates as well—they voted for her to win the MSMC Golden Ball Award, given annually to the team’s all-around best player. She had already made her mark, but wanted to build upon her success during the following seasons.

Not only did McDermott make the All-Conference First Team again as a sophomore, but she also made the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro Region Second Team, a higher honor. Once again, McDermott by no means expected such an honor, but was thrilled to be grouped with some of the best players in the country.

“When you think of how many teams there are and the amount of players there are to choose from, it makes you feel special and makes you stand out,” said McDermott.

During her sophomore and junior seasons, she continued to surprise opposing offenses with her stellar defense, keeping the opponents off the scoreboard. Over the course of those two seasons, McDermott added two more goals to her total, along with five more assists and eight more total points. Tara also made Skyline All-Conference First Team for the third consecutive time, which began to seem like an annual goal of hers. However, she admits that it is not a predetermined goal for each season; rather she takes it as a sign that her skills never drop off and remain as sharp as ever.

McDermott’s senior season would prove just as successful as the others, as she won 2013 Division III Metro Women’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Year. She also made the ECAC Metro Region team again for the second time in her collegiate career—this time, she made the jump from second team to first team. She also made Skyline All-Conference First Team for the fourth consecutive year.

McDermott also led her team to their fourth straight conference title game, where they faced off against the Farmingdale State College Rams who had defeated them in the previous three title games. Unfortunately, McDermott and the Knights could not break the Ram curse, and fell to them once again in the big game.

“It’s definitely frustrating because we would always beat Farmingdale during the regular season, but for some reason they always won the one that really counted at the end,” McDermott reflects. “But I don’t dwell on it or let it define my time playing here.”

During her four seasons as a Knight, McDermott only sat out three games. She started 85 of 88 games in her college career, which shows the large amount of faith her coaches and team has in her. Being relied on like that can be quite a responsibility, and McDermott was well aware of what was expected of her.

“I actually always get nervous, no matter what, before every game,” she said. “But getting nervous like that at least shows that I actually care a lot about performing well and winning games.”

McDermott has put the same type of care into her studies. She is due to graduate on May 17 with a 3.5 GPA. McDermott, a business-marketing major, actually found being a part of the soccer team helped her get better grades during the season.

“Between our early morning practices, our 48 hour rule, our mandatory team study halls, and a coach that keeps on us about it all, it forces us to do well in school during the season,” McDermott said.

McDermott expects to do just as well in graduate school this fall. She has been accepted to attend the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (LIM) in New York City, where she plans to earn her MBA in fashion entrepreneurship to bring her closer to her career dream—to one day become an official buyer for Bloomingdales.

Down in the New York City area, McDermott hopes to find a soccer team to play for while she attends LIM. Even though she will no longer play on the Kaplan Field for the Knights, she refuses to part ways with the sport she loves.

“I definitely can’t picture myself not playing soccer,” said McDermott.

If McDermott’s future career in business marketing becomes as big a passion as soccer has always been for her, then the sky is the limit for this talented individual as she enters the newest chapter of her life. For now, McDermott offers an interesting outlook on how she has approached life as a focused student-athlete:

“Your dedication to your team is certainly important, but don’t take it more seriously than you have to. Try and have fun with it all while you can, and remember that your education is more important. I wasn’t here to become a professional athlete; I was here to get my work done.”