For most college students, the summer symbolizes a season of unbridled relaxation, filled with trips to the beach and constant celebration. For Boston University women’s soccer senior Jesse Shreck, the summer stands for a different purpose. The midfielder spent her summer break overseas in Israel, representing the United States in the 20th Maccabi Games.
Shreck was one of 10,000 Jewish athletes competing in the Olympic-esque event, making the Maccabi Games the third-largest sporting spectacle on the planet. Held every four years, the Maccabi Games occur the year following the summer Olympic Games. This summer’s event brought together athletes from 80 different countries competing in 43 different sports.
Not only is the Maccabi Games experience an exhilarating one on the field, the opportunity to travel throughout Israel provides many U.S.-based athletes with insight into a foreign country much different from where they call home. The U.S. women’s soccer team spent plenty of time soaking in the culture of Israel and dedicated themselves to visiting many of the country’s primary landmarks.
“There is a lot of security there, [making] you feel really safe,” Shreck said. “I feel like it’s the safest country that I have ever been in. We [went] to all of the famous sites, like the Yad Vashem [The World Holocaust Remembrance Center], and the Western Wall, which is unbelievable to experience. [We also] went to Masada and the Dead Sea in the same day [because] they are in the same area.”
These tourist excursions served as bonding opportunities for Shreck and her fellow U.S. athletes, giving her the opportunity to meet fellow athletes from other teams.
“We toured as a team,” Shreck said. “I also toured with the men’s soccer team and some other teams. Swimming came along, [as did] track. It was fun and I got to meet all of the other athletes. Sometimes, we would bump into other countries on the way, which was really cool.”
Shreck was not alone as a representative of the Patriot League in the tournament. Four seasons ago, Shreck played alongside Gabi Rosenfeld in the Maccabi Games in 2013. Now, Rosenfeld is a senior at Bucknell University, and she made the trip to Israel to compete in the open competition this past summer.
Although Shreck was besides just a pair of the athletes that she had manned the pitch with four summers ago, she gelled well with her new squad. Shreck opened up the preliminary round by slicing past the Brazil defense for an assist to pace the U.S. to a win. She then followed that performance up by chopping up the representatives of Great Britain with a pair of goals and an assist in a 11-0 shellacking.
Shreck added to her points tally with a one-goal, one-assist showing in a triumph over Australia.
“The Australia game was my best personally,” Shreck said. “I think I played the best in that game. We started kind of rough, [but] we actually ended up beating them, 4-0. We had to get on the same page. About halfway through the game, we decided to pick it up. We all contributed, felt accountable and felt a lot stronger.”
Shreck also added that the Australia game was important for the U.S. team.
“That was a turning point for our tournament play,” she said. “That was the best game we played together.”
This victory sent the team surging into the semifinals where they foiled Mexico in a 10-goal effort, two of which were assisted on by Shreck.
The U.S. team witnessed their surge come to a halt in the championship as they fell at the hands of the host team Israel, 2-1. However, they further cemented their rotation as a force to be reckoned with in the landscape of women’s soccer with their overall performance.
For Shreck personally, the tournament provided her a leg-up on her Patriot League counterparts in that she was able to face world-class competition during the offseason.
“I practiced with [the team] every day, I competed in games, just being able to be in that [competitive] atmosphere that we have in the fall definitely gave me [the] upper hand coming into preseason,” Shreck said. “I was able to play at a high level of competition.”