Groff is off to a good start at Ursinus
It didn’t take long for freshman Mackenzie Groff to raise the eyebrows of the Ursinus womens soccer team’s coaching staff.
In a preseason scrimmage against DeSales, Groff scored her first collegiate goal for the Bears after pouring in 43 as a Salisbury High School senior.
Groff didn’t start that preseason matchup, but she made an immediate impact after being subbed in 20 minutes into the first of three 30-minute periods. That moment not only gave the coaching staff trust in the freshman, but Groff gained plenty of confidence.
Since then she has blossomed into one of the best young players in the Centennial Conference. Groff has recorded four goals and three assists in helping Ursinus jump out to a 5-1 record and a 1-0 mark in conference play. She already has three game-winning goals and was named the Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Week last week.
“I scored a goal during that scrimmage, and my coach put a lot of faith into me in starting me,” Groff said. “She saw that I was working really well up top with [junior forward] Jeannie [Jasinski] and a couple of the other juniors. It just kind of worked out and it’s going well.”
The Bears’ only loss came against Ithaca in the Rowan Tournament early in the season, a team that entered the game ranked 25th in the country in Division III.
There was plenty of success at the high school level at Salisbury last fall. Groff led the area in goal-scoring, but she wasn’t sure what to expect as she adjusted to the college game.
She certainly didn’t imagine what has unfolded in the first three weeks of the season.
“I didn’t think coming in as a freshman that I would play as much as I have been,” Groff said. “But I’ve been working really hard and proving that I can put the ball in the goal. I think my coach sees that I can score so she is putting me up there.”
Groff’s game-winners have come against Shenandoah (4-0), Arcadia (2-1) and Moravian (1-0). None were more meaningful than her strike against Moravian with a header into the back of the net.
“I live so close to Moravian,” Groff said. “My family was there, some of my high school friends on the soccer team came to watch me, and [Salisbury head coach Rick] Babyak was actually there.
“I was looking at Moravian, so it was nice to score against a team that I was almost a part of.”
Despite being on the Ursinus campus for a matter of weeks, Groff has already made a special relationship with Jasinski, a fellow attacking forward leading the Bears’ offensive charge. The two have seven of the team’s 12 goals so far.
Along with Jasinski, who helped Groff adjust to the college game in the preseason, the upperclassmen that have been in head coach Kelly Wakeman’s system have helped make the transition a smooth one.
“I have a lot of older girls to look up to,” Groff said. “We have a lot of juniors and sophomores on our team who played together all last year. They all have such a good dynamic between them. It was fun to come in and play with them.”
The Bears continue play in the Centennial Conference with next week’s game against Bryn Mawr. Their early-season success has resulted in high hopes in conference play, and Ursinus is thinking postseason play come November.
“Coach wants us to go 8-2 in our conference, which is going to be really, really tough,” Groff said. “We have some really good teams in our conference like Johns Hopkins, Swarthmore and Haverford. I think if our team keeps up the intensity that we’re playing with and we keep our dynamic, that might be a goal we can reach.”