The Franklin & Marshall scholar-athlete profile features one Diplomat per month who personifies what it means to be an NCAA student-athlete. The F&M campus is filled with dedicated, passionate, and talented student-athletes who have interesting stories to tell – and it's our goal to let those stories be heard. To be chosen as a scholar-athlete of the month, F&M student-athletes must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and community service, or have a noteworthy story that stretches beyond the realm of athletic competition.
To view previous scholar-athletes, click here.
Nine seconds remained on the clock before the Franklin & Marshall College women's soccer team could cement its 2-0 road win against Penn St.-Harrisburg on Sept. 21 of the 2016 season. All the remaining time allowed for was a routine play by the Lions - a throw in toward the box for a listless attempt at a goal, which eluded them through the opening 89 minutes of action.
The result was routine as well, with defender Sarah Mischianti displaying her relentless competitive drive by making a tough, hard-nosed play on the ball - leaving her feet and rising up to use her head for a clearance attempt.
An opposing player, who timed her jump too late and missed the ball, met her in the air. Their heads collided and both players were injured, with Mischianti ending up on the worse end of the exchange. A significant gash opened directly above her left eye, one that required a drive to Lancaster General Hospital by the Diplomat coaching staff, a four-hour wait to see the plastic surgeon and a total of 22 internal and external stitches to heal.
But the Diplomats had a game in three days and Mischianti was determined to suit up.
The senior captain was not one to miss a game, having started in every contest she appeared in through the previous three years and all but one of the team's total competitions. Overall for her career, she ended up being the program leader in games played (65) and was second in games started (63), part of the reason why the senior from Greenwich, Conn., was named to the All-Centennial Conference (CC) Honorable Mention list twice.
F&M's athletic training staff was skeptical but supportive, minimizing the risk of a repeat trauma opening the wound by customizing a protective facemask to wear in the next game, wrapping Mischianti's head and making her promise to avoid any more headers.
The last was not a realistic request of a competitor who prides herself on playing aggressive along the back line.
"My teammates and I quickly established a communication system, both verbal and non-verbal, that allowed me to play my game, while knowing that my teammates would cover for me on a header or any play that would put my head at risk," recalled Mischianti.
A surprise to no one who has spent any amount of time around the hard-working, dedicated leader of the women's soccer team, she ended up starting that following game against Ursinus, as well as the next nine contests to close out her final season.
The situation was not a unique one for Mischianti, who has been a captain at every level she has played while battling an extensive list of injuries during her time on the pitch. In high school, she endured surgery on each knee and near the end of her junior year at F&M she sustained an avulsion fracture when she tore her quadriceps from her hipbone.
"I am not sure there are many other players out there who would still be in the game if they faced the physical challenges Sarah has during her career," said second-year head coach Heather Kemp. "I've never seen her allow pain to limit her play."
Mischianti's style of play is accentuated by her toughness, as well as what her head coach describes as "a fierce pursuit of excellence."
"She just flat out wants to be better than you, and that's the mark of a true competitor," explained Kemp. "Her gutsy play and physical sacrifice is inspiring, and her courage in the face of adversity is contagious."
That same perseverance to push through obstacles on the field is what naturally allowed Mischianti to take on a leadership role in the team's coaching transition that followed her sophomore season, when Kemp's selection was announced.
"The uncertainty that accompanies a coaching change is naturally unsettling to the team dynamic, as well as individual players," Mischianti said. "You are dealing with a new coach who did not recruit you, who is unfamiliar with each player and is implementing a different team philosophy and style of play."
Members of the team were asked to commit to this process, to completely change the culture of the program, their work ethic and their overall mentality. The evolution did not occur overnight, but thanks in large part to Mischianti's leadership, both on and off the field during that time, the improvement has been evident.
The 2016 Diplomats produced a 7-9-1 overall record - the highest win total since 2010 -registered the lowest goals against average mark in program history (0.80) and tied the single–season mark with eight shutouts.
Mischianti's competitiveness and passion for the program was the embodiment of what Kemp wanted to instill in the team.
"As we were changing the way we trained and played, Sarah's efforts never waivered," recalled Kemp. "Her reliability and discipline guided the team and when I personally challenged them, she was there to push her teammates to meet the challenge."
Her poise and determination has carried over to her success away from the field, as well. She was one of the first students to design her own curriculum as a Joint Studies Major in Biology/ Business, Organizations and Society, and she has been a consistent member of the Dean's List and Delphic Society.
With the goal of pursuing an occupation in the healthcare field, Mischianti has worked as a research assistant in the F&M Biology department, conducting genetic research on the development of plant embryos, while also spending this past summer interning at Curemark, a biopharmaceutical company headed by F&M alumna Dr. Joan Fallon '79, that is developing and introducing cutting-edge therapies to treat Autism and other neurological diseases.
"Sarah is passionate about being the best at everything she does," said Kemp. "That attitude translates to studying hard for her next test, meticulously logging hours in the lab and doggedly pursuing her real-world experience in order to maximize her potential."
As all student-athletes at Franklin & Marshall College know, being great both on the field and in the classroom or lab requires the ability to balance your responsibilities.
"To succeed in both academics and athletics, you must be a fierce time manager," explained Mischianti. "You must keep track of rapidly approaching deadlines, always stay organized and on top of readings, which sometimes includes bringing textbooks and laptops on bus rides to away games."
Those commitments also required sacrifices. She elected to stay on campus all eight semesters in order to satisfy her joint major requirements, instead of studying abroad as many of her classmates on campus enjoyed that experience.
Though fortunately for Mischianti, being a part of the women's soccer team will still provide her a chance in College to take a once in a lifetime trip outside of the United States, when she and her teammates travel to South Africa in May.
Modeled after the trek that F&M's men's soccer team takes every three years to the country, Mischianti and her teammates are making the trip for the first time as a program. While there, the Diplomats will compete against local women's teams, provide soccer clinics to youth of the area, as well as sightsee during their 12-day adventure across Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
This exceptional opportunity provides the perfect sendoff for Mischianti, who will be able to create yet another lasting memory with her teammates.
"It is hard to put into words how much I have gained from my time on the F&M women's soccer team," said Mischianti. "It is more than the wins and losses. At its core, it is about being part of something bigger than yourself and the pride in playing for the person next to you and that Diplomats' logo on your jersey."