'Grandma' nickname suits East Lyme's deLaforcade just fine
It didn't take long for Stephanie deLaforcade to earn a nickname at her third and final college home.
Her University of Tampa women's soccer teammates started calling the fifth-year player, "Grandma."
"It's definitely the joke," deLaforcade said recently during a phone conversation. "Once you become a fifth-year player, you're kind of the grandma of the team. When I showed up here, they were like, 'Grandma is coming.' It totally cracked me up."
"I don't mind it. Although I'm new just like the younger kids and transfers, I do feel I have a good sense about the sport and how college athletics work and balancing my academics and sports. I definitely like that part of being a veteran."
DeLaforcade is continuing her college soccer career and education in Florida. A former East Lyme High School star, she is working on her master's degree in marketing and playing for the Division II program.
"I've been really enjoying everything so far," she said.
Her previous stops included Syracuse, where she earned her undergraduate degree and appeared in 38 career games over three seasons, and Maryland, where she spent one redshirt year. She enjoyed competing at a high Division I level and represented her Syracuse team on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
It's been quite an adventure for the 2017 East Lyme graduate.
"I don't even know how to sum it up well," deLaforcade said. "I've experienced so many different things and been on so many different teams."
"Grandma" doesn't appear to be slowing down.
At Tampa, she's regained the goal-scoring touch that she possessed during her high school career. As a senior, she set the Eastern Connecticut Conference single-season goal scoring record (42), was named The Day's All-Area Player of the Year, and was a Class L all-state pick.
Through 10 games this season, she is tied for the team lead in goals (five) while ranking second in total points (14) and assists (four).
In one of her highlights this season, deLaforcade scored two goals to help Tampa rally for a 2-1 victory over Eckerd College.
She had only two goals at Syracuse.
"Although my soccer improved so much being at Syracuse and I learned so much, I couldn't express that aspect of my soccer," she said. "I wasn't a starter every single year and I didn't play every minute. Being here and working my way to being a starter and having plenty of playing time and scoring those goals just reminds me of what it used to be."
After earning an undergraduate degree in Health and Exercise Science from Syracuse last spring, deLaforcade fulfilled a dream to attend school with a good business program and in a warm climate.
Tampa checked off all of her boxes.
Her previous experiences made it an easy transition. She's learned that change can be good and not scary. And the weather is certainly better than at Syracuse.
"It was my dream to go somewhere maybe south, warm and somewhere I've never been before," she said. "I think being at the two previous schools totally prepared me for this experience. I came in and knew what it was like to be the new kid. I knew what it was like to transition and be away from home and all that.
"So, I think everything before this really prepared me for where I am now. ... I love it. I love meeting new people and experiencing new things and learning about different places. ... I didn't realize how much I really liked change and travel until all these experiences."
She will complete her master's degree in three semesters, giving her two seasons to play soccer. She's taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA for COVID-19 related reasons.
She's happy to still be playing soccer. She's healthier than she was earlier in her college career.
She has a much different perspective as a veteran than her freshman year.
"I definitely look at it differently knowing that I'm getting close to the end," deLaforcade said. "When you're a freshman, you're thinking that you have all these years and all this time. Graduating really puts that in perspective for me.
"This is not forever. I don't see myself playing soccer past college. So, every day and every practice, I'm super grateful to be where I am and not injured and playing, especially being down here (in Florida) at this level.
"As much as the ACC was amazing, it's really nice to take a little bit of a step back and play for me and play for my love of soccer. I've had some success recently. I can't complain. I'm definitely really happy to be scoring goals and playing for a team still."
She still has flashbacks to her high school glory days.
She remains close with Rachel Redding, her East Lyme coach. They chat about the "good old days," when deLaforcade is back home from school.
"I do miss it and I do think about it, because it's part of my roots," deLaforcade said. "The other day, I had a penalty kick in the game and all I could think about was just like high school. I hadn't taken a PK in years. I used to take them all the time.
"So, I thought, do it just like high school. And I ended up scoring the PK. It's those thoughts in the back of my mind that help me build a little bit of confidence because of what I've done in the past."