Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Favorite team: Besides Abington girls’ lacrosse, the Phillies
Favorite memory competing in sports: Being undefeated conference champs this year.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: It was in eighth grade, and we were warming up for our last game of our season. If we won the game, we would be undefeated, so everyone was really hyped for the game. While doing shuttles, I wasn’t paying attention, and my friend threw the ball right at my nose. None of the coaches were out yet, and I had to use a bar mitzvah sweatshirt to soak up the blood. For the rest of the game, I sat on the sideline crying, holding up a sweatshirt to my nose. Oh, and we lost the game. Looking back, my friend and I laugh about it because we thought it was the biggest deal in the work, but it was only middle school lacrosse.
Music on iPod: Chance the Rapper, Coldplay, Kanye West, The Killers, Lorde
Future plans: Attending Temple University in the fall of 2017 and hope to play club lacrosse.
Words to live by: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
One goal before turning 30: Go backpacking in Europe
One thing people don’t know about me: I was born in Sweden.
By GORDON GLANTZ
Although she's as competitive as the next person, outgoing Abington senior Maddie Sjoholm (pronounced Sher-holm) admits that she was a little envious of injured lacrosse teammates who got to sit out at practice.
Until it happened to her, that is.
That came in her sophomore year, when the Swedish-born Sjoholm bruised a muscle in her shoulder and was out of action for an extended period of time.
“It took me out for something like four weeks,” said the incoming freshman at Temple, who plans to play at the club level there. “It definitely didn’t feel good to sit on the sidelines.
“I had friends who had gotten injured, and I thought, ‘that must be nice.’ But, when I got injured, I just wanted to play lacrosse. It definitely added fuel to my fire.”
And it was this fire that current coach Amanda Kammes, who came to the Galloping Ghosts from the collegiate level, got to witness as the team’s coach during Sjoholm’s final two seasons.
“Over the last two years, we really felt we could never take her off the field,” said Kammes. “I think she probably was capable of playing college lacrosse if she had set her mind to it, but that wasn’t what she wanted. I think she had different goals for her future.
“She’s a well-spoken kid. She comes from a good family. She’s well-liked by her teammates. She’s a great kid.”
It was right after Kammes arrived on the scene -- taking over for Mary Kate Lomady, who saw enough in Sjoholm to put her on the varsity squad as freshman -- Sjoholm noticed a difference that equated to a raising of the bar.
Instead of trying to be a contender in their league, the Ghosts were in it to win it. Instead of making the district playoffs, they were gunning for states.
For a diehard lacrosse-centric athlete like Sjoholm, it was all worth it.
“It was a big transition,” said Sjoholm. “Amanda came from the college level, so it was more intense. In non-league games, we started playing teams from the Main Line – like Radnor, Garnet Valley and Conestoga – and we talked about making states. She really opened up our minds.”
The raised bar also meant that players like Sjoholm, affectionately known as “The Swede” by her teammates, were not above scrutiny.
While her services were needed on the field, her coach was not above pulling her out of the fray for a pep talk.
“It rarely happened,” said Sjoholm. “But she would try to get me mad, to get me to prove myself a few times. It was not a lot of fun.”
But winning was fun.
Undefeated and rarely challenged in league play, Abington claimed the SOL American conference title in 2017. The Ghosts saw their season end when they dropped a 9-8 heartbreaker in a district playoff game for the seventh and final state berth.
“We were really happy to get so much further this season,” said Sjoholm. “There were a lot of mixed emotions. While we were upset that we didn’t make it to states, we go away knowing that we all tried hard up until the end.
“There were people on the team who I had played with since I was in third grade, so it was bittersweet. Some of them are going to be playing on the college level, so I’ll still get to watch them.”
Sjoholm went through the recruiting process trying her best to find an ideal scenario, one where she could pursue her goal of becoming a doctor and major in pre-med while also being able to play lacrosse.
Her research told her it was not realistic.
“As I got into the recruiting process, I talked to other athletes who said it was impossible if I wanted to be a pre-med major,” she said. “There was a lot of discussion, weighing the pros and cons. If I was going to go into medicine, I needed to just go for it.”
This meant a difficult decision, but she put long-term goals above those of the short-term.
“As much as I love the sport, I have a deeper passion for (being a doctor),” she explained, adding that that the current plan is to follow in the footsteps of her father, Dr. Ola Sjoholm, a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital.
She added: “It’s something I always wanted to be. I shadowed (my dad) at work, and I thought it was amazing, seeing what he did. So, for right now, trauma is something I also want to get into. I’m open to anything else, though.”
Sjoholm was frank about why she chose Temple, where her sister, Hannah, is now studying physical therapy. Although she looked at schools as far away as California, she felt Temple offered just as good of an education at a fraction of the cost.
“Distance didn’t really matter,” said Sjoholm. “It was more financially, more what made sense. It was a better deal at Temple.”
Temple also offers a solid lacrosse option, with a club team in place.
“In terms of commitment, it is the equivalent to high school,” she said, adding the club team does not have a heavy travel schedule. “It will be a great way to stay involved with sports.”
Part of the Foundation
Sjoholm, as a two-year captain and four-year starter, was promptly identified as part of a senior class that laid the foundation for the program’s resurgence under Kammes.
Sjoholm was a low defender, who responded when asked to come out of her comfort zone.
“I was definitely out of my comfort zone, going to midfield, but I knew it would make me a better athlete – more well-rounded,” said Sjoholm. “During practice, I would switch from playing midfield to defense. I did a lot of practice on the draw circle and learned the plays on attack. As the season went on, I became less and less nervous about playing midfield. I won a decent amount of draws and scored a few goals this season.”
It was Sjoholm’s speed and lacrosse IQ that made up the coach’s mind about the change.
“We actually transitioned her into the midfield this year, and that says a little bit about her,” said Kammes “She’s got wheels, she can run for days. She always made good choices about when to slide and when not to slide.
“I felt like Maddie and Jordan Campbell were the heart of our defense back there for the last two years. The defenders always seem to get overlooked because they never fill up a stat column even though I would argue that defenders are what make your team successful. She’s a knockout ballsy defender. I really can’t say enough good things about her in that department.”
Added Sjoholm: “I would say I’m an aggressive player, but not to the point where I get yellow cards or anything like that. I don’t ever let the score determine how I play in a game. I just try to be consistent.”
As for leadership, she was just doing what came naturally for a four-year starter who naturally fell into a captaincy role.
“I’m not the kind of person who yelled at people,” she said. “I gave pointers when I needed to do it, and I was open to listening. And our team was so close that it wasn’t just left up to the captains. Everyone had a voice.”
Being born in Sweden is not just an interesting tidbit for Sjoholm. It is a big part of who she is and how she approaches life. While mom, Erin, is from New Jersey, her dad was born in Sweden and went to medical school there. He had to redo his residency in the United States when the family moved here when his youngest of three was a year old.
Sjoholm and her two older siblings, Hannah and Adam – visited every summer when they were younger and every other summer as they got involved in activities, taking two-week stints in the coastal village of Mellbystrand.
“Most of my family is from Sweden,” she said. “It’s definitely more laidback there. In the US, it’s a lot more ‘go-go-go’ all the time. Over there, everyone is more to themselves.
“You get the best of both worlds.”
And Sjoholm’s balancing of sports with academics and activities is an example of putting a broader perspective into practice.
With four AP classes this year and two last year, Sjoholm is also involved in Athletes Helping Athletes and Mini-Thon, as well as the Varsity A Club.
“I am really good at time management,” she said, while also explaining that she played club lacrosse in the fall and indoor in the winter up until 2016. “I always kept a good balance. When it is during the season, I had a good routine going on.”
Sjoholm cites her coaches and teammates as sources of inspiration.
“Our coaches were great about being there for us,” she said. “The coaches made our team into a family.”
Still, she mostly points toward her immediate family for being in her corner.
Her first sport was swimming, but her sister introduced her to lacrosse.
And that was that.
“In third grade, I started playing club lacrosse,” she said. “It quickly became my main sport. I grew up doing individual sports, where it is all on you. I liked how lacrosse is always a team effort.”
Getting into lacrosse early certainly helped her catch the eye of Lomady when she landed a spot as a varsity starter.
“I thought I could do it, but I didn’t take anything for granted,” she reflected. “I was so glad I made it.
“Because my sister also played lacrosse, she always knew what I was going through.”
While neither parent had lacrosse experience, they always lent a supportive ear and were always very supportive.
And then there is her brother, Adam.
“My brother has been a big inspiration,” she said. “He went through West Point, the whole military thing with combat training and Ranger school, and never once complained about it.
“His work ethic played a big role in forming mine.”