Soccer superstar kicks off season


Hanna Asmerom

After completing her high school career, college freshman Leena Mehendale began adjusting to her new life as a student-athlete at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Mehendale graduated from Hockaday in 2022 and participated in varsity cross country, varsity soccer and varsity track and field, serving as captain of those sports her senior year. She won seven coaches and Most Valuable Player awards as well as two Southern Preparatory Conference championships. 

She co-chaired the Nonprofit Fashion Show committee and was the editor of Vibrato. She completed hundreds of hours of community service and won the Founder’s Day award. She had a lot on her plate during her time at Hockaday and she reflects on how that has helped her in college. 

“Throughout my high school career, I was able to cement my study habits and I have already applied them to school now,” Mehendale said.

Mehendale is majoring in Biological Engineering and minoring in Spanish. With the rigor that comes at MIT, she learned to be ultra-productive with her time. Athletically, Mehendale noted the differences between high school and college sports. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, older players received extra years of eligibility, so Mehendale and her team play  against 18- to 24-year-olds. 

“College is definitely a step up in terms of physicality,” Mehendale said. “ The girls are just so much bigger than the girls we played in high school.”

To start off her busy day filled with school and sports, Mehendale has breakfast with her women’s soccer teammates. Then, she attends classes in the middle of the day and meets back up with her team in the evening for training, a lift and a team dinner. 

“My day is very team-oriented, which I love,” Mehendale said. 

Soccer has quickly become a “safe space” in her busy school schedule and a nice break from the demanding academic scene at MIT. 

“Because of all of the work I have to do, it can be hard to step away, but soccer forces me to take a break and balance my time,” Mehendale said. 

Despite the hectic environment, Mehendale loves the unique experience of bonding with her teammates on and off the field. 

“My teammates have quickly become some of my very best friends,” Mehendale said. “It is very fun to go to class, live and train together.”