Katie Sullivan left her home state of Pennsylvania to play college soccer but she’s quickly become a thorn in the side of a number of local colleges who have been picked off this season by Johns Hopkins.
The Villa Joseph Marie graduate from Yardley hopes to add one more familiar opponent from Pennsylvania to the list of teams the unbeaten Blue Jays have defeated this season in today’s national semifinal against Messiah in Salem, Virginia.
Messiah, the most decorated Division III women’s team with six national titles, played the Blue Jays to a 1-1 draw in Grantham in September and since tying Carnegie Mellon four days later in the Pittsburgh, Sullivan and company have put together a 19-game winning streak that has propelled them to within two wins of a trophy.
That win streak includes a 2-0 win over No. 1 Misericordia in Dallas on November 20th that secured just the second trip to a national semifinal in program history.
“It’s definitely cool to play against teams from Pennsylvania,” Sullivan said. “We just played Misericordia in the Elite Eight and they were really good and Messiah has won a lot of national titles and are one of those teams that really knows how to handle these kinds of situations.”
Messiah lost its only game of the year to local rival York and was held to a draw by Johns Hopkins and Misericordia in the regular season before advancing to the Final Four on penalties against Washington University St. Louis.
“It’ll be a challenge but we’ve also played them before so I definitely think we can rise to that challenge,” Sullivan said.
Like any soccer player making it to the final weekend of the season, Sullivan’s journey in soccer has had its share of adversity. When she was younger, she said she was on the smaller side and struggled on the pitch at times to the point where she never imagined she’d be in the position she is in now. Putting in the work, she was able to develop at Yardley Makefield Soccer and become a star at local powerhouse Villa Joseph Marie.
Villa Joseph Marie made seven straight trips to the PIAA state finals from 2014 to 2020, winning it in 2014 and when Sullivan was a sophomore in 2018.
“I always loved getting to be part of those deep postseason runs and I wanted to go to a college where that would be possible,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan found that in Division III at Johns Hopkins, where she was able to make an immediate impact as a rookie when she hit double digits in goals with 10 and dished out 5 assists. She has 14 goals and 12 assists this season and was named a United Soccer Coaches second team All-American earlier this week.
“I’ve been really focused this year on making the right decisions because last year I would say I would shoot when I probably could’ve passed more,” Sullivan said. “As a team too I would say we are more of an attacking team this year and we’ve been able to take things to the next level.”
One of the new additions to the team this year has been grad transfer Breukelen Woodard, a former Penn striker who leads the team in goals with 19. Grad transfer Rebecca Rosen and fifth year captain Rachel Jackson have also reached double digits in goals. Rookie defender Annie Isphording was named a first-team All-American.
“The grad students and freshmen we brought in this year have added so much to the team this year,” Sullivan said.
Should Sullivan and her teammates pass today’s formidable test, the reward will be a program first trip to a national championship game on Sunday afternoon. The last time a Johns Hopkins team made it to this stage was in 2014 when they fell 1-0 to Williams in Kansas City.
“I just want to take it all in and enjoy it because we don’t know when we’ll be back again,” Sullivan said. “We’re all excited to get out there and prove to the nation what we can do.”
The game will be streamed live on the NCAA website. The second semifinal between CWRU and Virginia Wesleyan follows at 4 p.m.