McKeesport, PA. – Starting a collegiate athletic program from the ground up takes a lot of hard work and discipline as you go from nothing to trying to compete in your conference. PSUGA Alumnus and former Women’s Soccer player Melissa Loftus got to experience this first hand at Penn State Greater Allegheny as she took a non-existent program and made it into a competitor in the Penn State University Athletic Conference.
Loftus had been playing soccer her whole life and it has brought her many experiences that she wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise. Whether on the field or in life, it was soccer that helped her reach for her dreams and know she could achieve anything.
“Soccer has always been a way of life for me,” said Loftus. “It has been my outlet on the toughest times and also brought me the best of times. The sport teaches you to reach for the stars not only on the field but outside in the real world as well. It gives you a great second family and the best of friends to experience life with.”
Loftus played her high school soccer at Oxford High School in Oxford, PA and was looking for an opportunity to continue her soccer career at the next level. She had two opportunities on the table both allowing her to continue her career. She could either go to another college and compete on their established team or help PSUGA build a soccer program from the ground up to compete in a growing PSUAC.
Loftus took some time to make her decision, but ultimately the opportunity to help a program grow is what encouraged her to take a leap of faith and come to PSUGA in the Fall of 2013.
“The [PSUGA] coach at the time contacted me on starting a program back up,” said Loftus. “I was torn between two schools and I couldn’t decide. I decided to come to GA so I could play soccer for a semester and then transfer to main campus. Two years later, I decided my journey at PSUGA was not over and that I would graduate GA in 2017.”
Loftus emerged as one of the leaders of the newly formed women’s soccer team from the time she stepped foot on the field. It was rough going for the team as a whole in their first season when they went 0-10, however, Loftus was one of two girls to score a goal that year. The following year the team got better posting a 3-6 record and Loftus followed suit scoring a team high eight goals.
The turning point in Loftus’s career came in her junior season as things were getting better on the field and in the classroom as she was moving towards her Business Management and Marketing degree while posting career high numbers on the field.
“The turning point in my college career was definitely my Junior year,” said Loftus. “Academically, you start all your core classes and get into your major, and in soccer it was the start of something great. I was starting to score multiple goals a game and became a dominant force on the field.”
While she continued to find success on the field, she faced adversity as well after injuring her knee that season. Loftus said it was hard to fight through the pain, but she found out just how tough she could be through the process.
“Hurting my knee was the turning point to everything,” said Loftus. “It taught me to be stronger and stay true to my goals ahead. That was the year I learned I was a lot stronger than I thought I was and I was a tough competitor on and off the field.”
Loftus continued to battle through the adversity and came out of it a better player. Her senior season was the best season of her career where she posted a team high 13 goals and six assists on 59 shots. She earned All-Conference PSUAC honors that season leading her team to a 4-8 record just missing a PSUAC Playoff spot.
Loftus set the standard for PSUGA Women’s Soccer players throughout her four years on the team. She currently holds eight PSUGA Women’s Soccer program records including career goals (30), assists (12), and points (72). Loftus is also one of only two PSUGA soccer players male or female to score 30 or more goals in their career.
“To be in the record books is the icing on the cake,” said Loftus. “You work your whole life to get to the college level and for me to finish my career breaking records makes all my hard work pay off. Without the support of my family, friends, or even my teammates I wouldn’t have been able to break those records.”
Loftus graduated from PSUGA in 2017 with her degree in Business Management and Marketing. There were many people throughout her PSUGA career that helped her accomplish her goals including coaches and athletes in her GA family. Loftus points out her former coach Amanda Voelker and former PSUGA Interim Student Affairs Director Erin O’Malley as two of the biggest impacts in her college career.
“The biggest person to impact my college career was definitely my coach throughout the years Amanda Voelker,” said Loftus. “She helped me not only at GA but also in life and helped get me to graduation. Another person who helped me out is Erin O’Malley. She was the biggest supporter to all PSUGA students and she touched everyone’s heart on campus.”
Since leaving PSUGA, Loftus has moved back home to Oxford, PA. and is helping run her family business where she has served as the Director of Operations since July of 2016. She handles all of the marketing for the company as well as managing the office. PSUGA has helped her gain the one-on one skill she needs and has helped propel her career.
It was through her soccer career at PSUGA that Loftus was able to get to where she is today. She is forever grateful for the opportunities given to her by PSUGA and for the family that she formed over her four years with the program.
“Playing for GA is like playing with your family,” said Loftus. “Over my four years, the women’s soccer team built itself up into a competitor in the conference. Playing with your family you go through ups and downs but at the end of the day, the team and all the teams at GA are a big tight nit group that always supported each other. I met some of my best friends through the GA spots program and I will be forever grateful for that experience.”
PSUGA has helped award Loftus many opportunities both athletically and in life. To the next generation of PSUGA student athletes, Loftus says to take advantage of your opportunities on campus because they will shape you for the rest of your life.
“My advice for a student looking at PSUGA would be to see the small campus as a benefit,” said Loftus. “PSUGA is a small campus, but with the small campus comes great opportunity.”