Around this time last year, as the fall sports season was wrapping up, William and Mary fans witnessed the end of a great Tribe career. Jonathan Grimes ’12, star running back and one of the best ever to wear the green and gold on the gridiron, had just finished his career with an outstanding performance in the College’s win over rival Richmond.
Since then, Grimes has moved up to the highest level attainable in his sport, but Tribe fans find themselves in a similar position this year. When the women’s soccer team fell in the semifinal of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament Nov. 3, it marked the end of one of the most impressive soccer careers this school has ever seen, that of senior midfielder Mallory Schaffer.
Two days before, the Pennsylvania-native was named CAA Player of the Year for the second straight season, having dominated the conference with machine-like consistency in her junior and senior seasons. Back in 2011, Schaffer led the league in points with 40 (16th in the nation), 10 more than the runner-up, and goals with 17 (No. 11 in the nation) in 22 games, while coming just five assists short of the conference-lead. In her senior season, Schaffer’s 23 points and 10 goals in 20 games were good for third in the conference in both categories. What makes her individual statistics even more astounding is that she accumulated them on outstanding teams with plenty of other scoring options. In both seasons, the team finished the regular season atop the conference, and in 2011 the College claimed the CAA title in the tournament.
But her numbers don’t paint the full picture of her importance to the College. Schaffer was never just a great player on a great team; she was a great player leading a great team, essentially single-handedly winning the conference trophy in 2011 with one of the most clutch performances a College player has ever put on in any sport.
After the Tribe got a bye through the first round of the tournament, Schaffer scored the Tribe’s only two goals in its 2-1 win over Delaware. Then, she scored the only goal of the championship game against Virginia Commonwealth in overtime. It was essentially the incarnation of the old adage: Big players make big plays in big moments. It was also nothing new; her six game-winners in 2011 were the most in the conference
This isn’t to say her sophomore season wasn’t also outstanding. After breaking in with four goals and two assists as a freshman, Schaffer led the Tribe with 10 goals and 23 points in 2010.
Like Grimes, she was always humble in uniform, deflecting praise onto her teammates and often seeming simply surprised at her play, despite the fact that by the end nobody else was.
It’s a shame that her wonderful career and the College’s wonderful season came to such a heartbraking end this year with the Tribe losing on penalty kicks to Hofstra. But ultimately it’ll be an afterthought,to Schaffer’s legend.