Mary Bystrycki, a freshman studying exercise science, is also passionate about her goalkeeper position within Kean University's Women's Soccer team. Since she was five years old, she has been immersed in a life of practice and dedication toward this sport. With a mindset to continue on, Bystrycki won't stop playing because she appreciates the game and opportunities she achieves through this sport.
"I have been playing soccer since I was five, and I wanted to continue playing here because I love the sport and worked my entire life to be where I am at [today], so I did not want to give it all away," said Bystrycki.
Just like many other students, Bystrycki became interested in the opportunities Kean had to offer.
"I decided to come to Kean because I liked the campus, distance from home and size," Bystrycki said. "[Also,] they are known for my major and I could continue playing soccer here. I have been able to play a collegiate season and experience the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play."
Although she would like to be a part of other clubs and organizations, being a part of the women's soccer team helps her develop and enjoy Kean more. When she does decide to join other clubs, she is confident in her ability to juggle these activities.
"I am on the Kean women's soccer team and have not yet joined any other club or activity," said Bystrycki. "Being on the team is a year-round commitment, with workouts and study hall consistent throughout. Also, joining a new team comes with new friendships and fun experiences."
As the goalkeeper for the women's soccer team, Bystrycki recalled her introduction to the sport and its impact on her current college career.
"I knew I wanted to play college soccer, so I reached out to [Head Coach, Brian Doherty] and he came to one or two games of mine. [We] then met on campus to discuss my coming here and playing on the team," said Bystrycki.
As a student-athlete, Bystrycki has acquired important lessons within her practices, thanking those who have influenced her success today.
"I have learned to play for the girls standing next to me, to give 100 percent every drill and always ask questions," said Bystrycki. "I attribute my success to all of the trainers and coaches I've had over my lifetime. They have all taught me the game I love and allowed me to see it from different perspectives. They have taught me how to be the best I can be in my position both mentally and physically, and they push me to test my limits."
Bystrycki and her team made it to the semi-finals of their NJAC tournament, where she received Defensive Player of the Week, Rookie of the Week twice, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro Rookie of the Month, and NJAC Honorable Mention.
She recorded 19 saves giving up one goal, leading the team to a playoff berth. In the regular season finale, she braved 32 shots and saved 11 as Kean tied Montclair State to the playoff spot. She then faced 20 shots and made eight saves as Kean took lead over Stockton 1-0 in the first round of the NJAC Tournament.
With a .904 save percentage, Bystrycki leads all NJAC goalkeepers. Moreover, she is the fourth with a 0.78 goals against average.
"I felt great and proud knowing that I could help my team win games and protect the net. I was surprised and young, but the older keepers were always there to give me much needed advice and tips," Bystrycki said. "Before games, I like to focus on [that] game and [that] game only, not next week's game or the one we just played a couple days ago. I try my best to stay in the moment, and during warm-ups I get pumped, let loose and usually dance to the music they have playing. Most importantly I make sure that I feel warm and ready to give my best effort."
With that mentality, Bystrycki has been able to assist in a successful NJAC tournament. Bystrycki now plans to relish all of Kean's attributes by staying pumped up and ready.