Growing up in Ithaca, senior Alison McKeown heard all about Cornell University and its athletics program. Her father was a member of the football team, her mother played ice hockey and her sister suited up for the soccer team.
“I have always been around Cornell,” McKeown said. “I never knew much about the academics, but I always knew exactly where the soccer fields and the ice rinks were.”
Instead of coming to Cornell upon graduating from Ithaca High School, McKeown, who had lived in Ithaca her entire life, decided to follow another one of her sisters and attend Penn State University.
“The soccer program [at Penn State] was one of the top in the country and I felt like it was the right place for me,” she said.
After two years in State College and two Big Ten women’s soccer championships, McKeown realized that it was time to pursue other college options. She decided she wanted to transfer to a different college — and Cornell was waiting for her right where she had left it.
“Penn State wasn’t exactly the ideal place for me,” she said. “My family was all in Ithaca and Cornell has always been amazing. It felt right to come back here.”
Upon arriving back in Ithaca, McKeown, because of certain circumstances, was told that she would not be able to play soccer right away. Instead of sulking, McKeown decided to pursue her other athletic love — lacrosse. This year, she will compete for a starting role on both teams.
“[Last year] I had an amazing time playing lacrosse and winning a share of the Ivy League title,” she said. “Still, I missed soccer a lot last year. I am so lucky to get to play two sports this year at Cornell.”
While most college athletes are somewhat weighed down with the commitment of a single sport, McKeown is happy to get the chance to play two, a feat that is rare at the college Division-1 level.
“I think every college athlete get overwhelmed,” she said. “But this is my only opportunity to play college sports. This is my college experience.”
Thus far in the soccer season, McKeown has made an immediate impact for the Red, earning a starting job up front and pushing to catalyze the stalling Red offense. She scored the team’s only goal during its trip to Hawaii last week, and she is confident that the goals will soon become more frequent for her teammates.
“It is really coming together,” she said. “We haven’t been able to produce as [of] yet and it is frustrating, but all this preparation will really help us during the Ivy League season.”
With or without goals, McKeown’s return to soccer has been a benefit to the Red and her transition has been almost seamless with the support of her teammates.
“At first I was a little worried about coming into a group, as a senior, that was already familiar with one another,” she said. “But they have been so great and really welcoming.”
Her lacrosse teammates, too, have been behind her this soccer season — much of the team was at the soccer home opener against St. Bonaventure earlier this month.
McKeown is psyched to be home in Ithaca, participating in both of her athletic loves. At the moment, soccer is the only sport on McKeown’s mind, thoughlacrosse will likely take over that role once the spring season arrives.
When asked which sport she likes better, McKeown is quick to give the prudent answer.
“I am committed to both teams,” she said.