We will be profiling Arizona soccer’s returning players before they return to campus in July. Next up: redshirt freshman Molly Shannon.
One way or another Molly Shannon was destined to be a Division I athlete.
Her father Dan played football at Western Michigan, her mother Betsy was a swimmer at Xavier and her older sister Maggie played volleyball at Lafayette College.
Molly’s sport is soccer. The Cincinnati native spent her club days with Ohio Elite Soccer Academy in the ECNL and also starred for her high school, Ursuline Academy, where she was named all-city and all-district as a senior.
The left-footed defender committed to Arizona as a sophomore in high school and redshirted in her freshman season at the UA. She enters the 2020 campaign with a chance to take on a larger role after the Wildcats lost five starters.
“She is one of the most genuine, kind people I’ve ever met in my entire life, and what she brings to the soccer field is something that I admire,” sophomore Mariah Dunn said of Shannon. “She brings aggressiveness. She’s probably one of the most positive people on the field I know, and it really helps our team dynamic.”
Here’s a Q&A with Shannon, whose answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
Ryan Kelapire: What did you take away from your freshman season?
Molly Shannon: “I probably had a different freshman season or experience because having been offered a redshirt was a really big benefit for me. Athletically, I wanted to get the most out of my four years of eligibility, and I think doing that allowed me to do that. And then academically I’m able to get my master’s in my fifth year. So that was really important to me. But for my freshman year, I just worked on individual things that I needed to work on so I could help the team next year.”
RK: Do you have an example of those things you worked on?
MS: “I’ve always played outside back, and in the spring, like in the game we played (against UTEP), I played outside mid, like a wingback. So just transitioning to be more offensive and defensive is what I worked on.”
RK: Other than that game, Arizona fans haven’t seen you play, so what are your strengths as a player?
MS: “I’m quick, I’m fast. I really try on my accuracy, like with ball passing and crosses. And I am left-footed, so that helps. And I’m very, very aggressive.”
RK: What’s next for you as a player?
MS: “I have everything to prove, that there’s a reason why everyone was recruited to come to Arizona. So just show your strengths every day at practice, and then come ready to play. And then when you do get your opportunity to play, play your hardest, play your best.”
RK: You talked about redshirting. Is that something you always planned to do or did it become an option once you realized you weren’t going to play very much?
MS: “The first time it was mentioned was during preseason. We kind of had the talk about it. And then also my parents just helped me through the whole process and the coaching staff was really like helpful and just like the academic counselors. Like everyone just kind of helped and we all came to a decision and I just went with that decision and it was the best for me at the time.”
RK: When did you start playing soccer and why did you stick with it?
MS: “My whole family has been college athletes, so I knew since I was little I always wanted to follow in their footsteps. So when I was younger, I played every single sport that I could have. And then I was always a runner and I always loved soccer and you couldn’t get me off the field.”
RK: What’s the highlight of your soccer career so far?
MS: “I would say my highlight of my soccer career would probably be playing in the ECNL, and just having such a strong club team, and that we’ve all developed together. Now to say that we’re all Division I soccer players is really cool.”
RK: You’re the only one in your family to go to a school outside the midwest, so what made you want to do that?
MS: “That’s a great question. When I visited Arizona, right when I walked on campus, it felt like home to me and I knew my parents would come and visit and could come see me all the time. But honestly, I would give it to the coaches, the players who were there that saw me and just Tucson in general. It just felt like home and the people were so accepting and nice that I just fell in love with it.”
RK: What was it like adjusting to living in the desert?
MS: “It was definitely hot. It’s a definitely a dry heat that I wasn’t used to. but I grew up in Texas too. So I was kind of used to the heat a little bit, so I loved it.”
RK: Do you know there was a Saturday Night Live actress named Molly Shannon who is also from Ohio?
MS: “Yes, I do get that all the time. Jim (Krumpos), our strength coach, makes that joke all the time.”
RK: Your sister is 6-foot-3 and you’re listed at 5-foot-7. How does that happen?
MS: “Yeah, my dad is 6-6 and my sister is 6-3 and my dad’s side of the family is all over 6-feet tall. But my mom is 5-5, 5-6, so I definitely got her genes on that.”
RK: What drives you as a player and person?
MS: “Definitely my family. My family is a very close-knit family. I know how if you don’t work hard, you’re not gonna get anything out of it. So if you work hard, you’re gonna see all your dreams come true. So I just work hard and try to have confidence with whatever I do.”
RK: What’s your early outlook for the 2020 season?
MS: “I think we’re a really strong team, and we have overcome a lot of adversity and obstacles that we’re going to come back come out even stronger because of all that. And I think individually we all have worked really hard to help the team out and to prove to everyone that we are Arizona soccer, and that we’re going to do amazing this season. So I think we’ll do really well.”
RK: Other than soccer what do you like to do?
MS: “I like to jump rope, so over quarantine I’ve done like 1,000 jump ropes a day. That’s what I do and I run a lot. I love to go on long-distance runs.”
RK: What do you want to do after college?
MS: “I want to one day work in the banking and finance world. I want to get my master’s in finance and I hope to one day live in a city.”