When Princeton's women's soccer team advanced to the NCAA College Cup Final Four in 2004, the Tigers were led by All-American Esmeralda Negron, who envisions a future with much more soccer.
In 2004 Esmeralda Negron had, arguably, the greatest season of any Ivy women's soccer player in history.
She set the Ivy League mark for points scored in a season, with 23, and set Princeton season records with 52 points, 20 goals, and 12 assists. She also set Princeton career records for points and goals scored, marks previously held by 1980's two-time first team All-Ivy Linda DeBoer. Negron was named first team All-Ivy (for the third consecutive year) and first-team All-American, and repeated as Ivy League Player of the Year.
Negron also led Princeton to the NCAA tournament Final Four, where the Tigers were defeated by UCLA. This is the only time an Ivy team has ever made a women's soccer Final Four. "It was amazing," remembers Negron. "I can still remember every game of every round we played so clearly. It gives me goose bumps sometimes thinking about what we did and how connected as a team."
"[Coach] Julie Shackford was amazing and she encouraged me to play freely and to not alter my style" says Negron. To say that she responded well would be an understatement. During her time at Princeton the soccer team went 22-4-2 in league play (57-12-6 overall), winning three Ivy titles, two unshared. By comparison Princeton won two shared titles in 23 previous seasons, and none since Negron graduated in 2005.
From Harrington Park, N.J., Negron played soccer from the age of six and became interested in Princeton while in middle school, playing in a soccer tournament in nearby New Brunswick. "I remember walking around the campus and Nassau Street in between games and telling my Dad I wanted to go there," she says. Majoring in Spanish and pre-med, she found "balancing both athletics and academics was difficult, but I had a lot of support from professors and the coaching staff."
After graduation Negron played professionally in Europe. Her first season she played for the USCO Compiegne club team in France, and currently plays in the first division for Koln, Germany. "The only thing I [missed at Princeton] was studying abroad because I didn't want to be away from soccer for that long," says Negron, "but I've gotten to do that now. It has been challenging but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I get to travel and see the world while getting to play soccer. I like that I am still able to play because soccer is truly my passion."
She's also been playing professionally in the United States. In the summer of 2006 Negron played for the New Jersey Wildcats of the Women's United Soccer League. "Playing in the States is great," she says. "I am looking forward to playing in the W-league this summer. I heard that the women's professional league that folded will be revived in April 2008, so I think a lot of people see potential in women's soccer."
Aside from her plans to continue playing soccer, Negron "would also like to get involved in college coaching. I think regardless of what I do professionally I will always be connected to the game in some way."
— Stephen Eschenbach