As Ella Larsen pondered the role soccer has played in her life, one particular story came to mind. It involved Riverside, lightning and wet clothing.
Larsen recalled scoring a goal two minutes before a game was canceled due to stormy weather, and her team was credited with the win.
But that’s not why the memory sticks out to her.
“I remember sitting in the hotel laundry room, drenched, as my entire team tried to dry our socks,” she said. “I just love the communal, team aspect of this sport. I have never found it anywhere else.”
Larsen won’t have to go searching for a tight-knit community when she heads off to college — the Crossroads School senior secured one when she decided to join the women’s soccer program at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
Larsen said she considered other liberal arts colleges like Vassar and Pomona as well as Ivy League universities Yale and Brown, but she ultimately determined that Wesleyan was “the perfect blend” for her academic and athletic needs.
“I just loved the Wesleyan vibe,” said Larsen, who is interested in fiction writing and acting. “It was so cozy but also academically stimulating. I’m just in love.”
Larsen will develop her skills under coach Eva Meredith, who recently completed her 12th season at the helm. Wesleyan, a Division III school and one of the founding members of the NCAA, went 6-7-2 overall and 3-5-2 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference this past season.
Larsen will join a roster that also includes Ella Sinfield, a Santa Monica High School alumna who saw action in 12 games for the Cardinals as a freshman this year.
“I don’t actually know her, but I know of her because we are literally the same person,” Larsen joked. “Our parents email each other and use ‘my Ella’ and ‘your Ella’ to differentiate.”
For Larsen, Wesleyan is the next stop on a soccer journey that began when she was in kindergarten. All of her friends were playing, she said, and she wanted to join them.
But by the time she left Lycee Francais de Los Angeles for high school at Crossroads, most of her friends had given up the sport for other hobbies.
Larsen kept at it. She played club in Santa Monica United and started for most of her four-year career with the Roadrunners.
Heading into her last high school home game, Larsen was bummed that Crossroads wouldn’t be advancing to the playoffs after a challenging season. But it was a night to remember nonetheless — not just because her coach spoke glowingly about the graduating seniors or because the underclassmen decorated the locker room. Larsen scored a hat trick, and one of the goals came on an assist from her younger sister.
Larsen said she’s worried about getting down on herself when she starts playing at Wesleyan and that she might not feel the urgency this summer to prepare for college soccer. It’s why she’s thankful for how her campaign with the Crossroads squad wrapped up.
“I’m so happy it ended that way because it gave me a nice healthy confidence boost for next year,” she said.