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Life after the final buzzer sounds

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"I was really nervous," Baird said. "I had no idea what I was doing."

Twelve years later, during her first semester without wind sprints or passing drills in as long as she could remember, Baird, a College of Communication senior who will graduate in May, wasn't quite sure what to do with herself.,”

When Ashley Baird stepped onto the field for her first soccer practice for the Lightning Bolts of Stilwell, Ks., she was 9 years old, scared and lost.

"I was really nervous," Baird said. "I had no idea what I was doing."

Twelve years later, during her first semester without wind sprints or passing drills in as long as she could remember, Baird, a College of Communication senior who will graduate in May, wasn't quite sure what to do with herself.

"Practice takes out three or four hours of your day," she said. "It's amazing how much more free time you have when you're not playing a sport."

A member of the women's soccer team, Baird's playing days with Marquette ended Nov. 12 with a shootout loss to Florida in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Since then, she has been getting used to a world that many student-athletes find unfamiliar – the life that comes after the game.

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The shots were falling like crazy. The only trouble was that they were going in the wrong hoop. Courtney Paris, Oklahoma's All-American center, was having her way in the paint. The deficit was 10 points, then 20. The sky was falling on the Golden Eagles' season.

And Jasmine McCullough was cheering all the way.

"I was just trying to keep doing what I do best, which was trying to get the team going again," McCullough said. "You never give up. You fight to the end."

For McCullough, putting her best foot forward has been a way to show her appreciation to the coaches and professors who have spent four years helping her meet two full-time commitments, one to basketball and the other to electrical engineering.

"You need that support," she said. "You can't do it by yourself."

Baird said her coaches told her as a freshman that she'd have to make adjustments as a student-athlete that her peers didn't necessarily have to consider.

"You definitely have to set different priorities," Baird said. "When everyone else is going out, you're going to bed early and waking up early."

When spring soccer practices started this year, Michelle Pitzl hit 3 p.m. and realized she had nowhere to go. Like Baird, she's been used to spending her afternoons on the field since grade school.

McCollough said learning to balance her priorities has done wonders for her work ethic.

"Other kids might put stuff off for later," she said. "You don't have later, because you have other stuff to do later."

Now that her workload has lightened considerably, McCollough said she's been able to do something entirely new to her.

"I've just been chilling," she said. "I'm like a normal student."

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Danielle Kamm isn't done playing basketball. She's looking for an agent and putting together highlight tapes, trying to get her foot in the door of a women's league in Europe.

She's had her hands on a basketball for what seems to her like forever and has dreamed of playing professionally ever since she was a little girl dribbling across the driveway.

"It would mean so much to me," Kamm said. "To be able to continue playing basketball and doing something that I love as a profession, that would be so great."

As her final season at Marquette drew to a close, Kamm said the sadness that accompanied the end of her time as a Golden Eagle was tempered by a sense of closure.

"I think there comes a point in time when you realize it's time to move on," she said.

Matt Blouin isn't done either. His time in Florida this summer will be split between an internship with a marketing firm and practices with the Orlando Sharks of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Blouin said he first started thinking about a professional career during his time on the Marquette men's soccer team, but the thought did not sink in until after his collegiate career was through.

"I went to Sweden and had a contract offered to me to play over there," he said. "That was the point when I was like, 'I have a legitimate chance to do this.' "

The College of Communication senior said he's also interested in working in sports marketing.

"It's not necessarily something that's huge to me, to go and play anywhere I can," he said. "I just want to stay connected to the game."

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"Even when I was little, I was never like, 'I'm going to be a professional soccer player,' " Baird said. "It's never been realistic to think that. You always know that."

Stepping off the court or the field doesn't mean Baird and other graduating student-athletes are ready to cut their ties to their sports. For Baird, that means playing pickup games with former teammates.

For McCollough, it means "open gym with the ladies," as well as helping her little sister, now a freshman in high school, elevate her game.

"It's sad and exciting at the same time," McCullough said. "Sad because I don't want to leave my teammates and my coaches; exciting to start a new chapter in my life."

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The student news site of Marquette University
Life after the final buzzer sounds