Like his favorite player Trent-Alexander Arnold, who has gone from boyhood Liverpool fan to club icon in the last five years, former Tufts men’s soccer co-captain Ian Daly stands out for his work ethic and positive outlook. The recent graduate’s impact on the program has left a legacy grounded in humility, unity and hard work.
During his college recruitment process, Daly wanted to find a school with a strong athletic and academic reputation.
“I was focused on trying to find the best academic opportunity that coincided with my soccer goals and really Tufts fit all those checkboxes,” Daly said. “For me, luckily enough, my dad was willing to film a lot of my games … and help me put together some highlights to talk to coaches, from there I was lucky enough to connect with at the time Coach [Josh] Shapiro, who’s now at Harvard, … and he took a chance and I’m incredibly grateful that he did.”
In his first two years under Shapiro, Daly was a part of the first Tufts team to win back-to-back national championships. Despite these historic achievements, his greatest memories were made by his teammates who he formed irreplaceable bonds with.
“Definitely at the top of the list of greatest memories is winning championships, but I think specifically within that is doing it with a group of your best friends,” he said. “Because winning just by yourself is rewarding but not in the same way it can be when you can do it with a group that you are so close with. So, winning in 2018, 2019 and also the NESCAC in 2021, that team that year was so close-knit … and it was really such a rewarding experience to win and celebrate with your friends.”
Daly also talked about memories off the field and how he grew closer to his teammates by opting for a fifth year at Tufts.
“Taking a fifth year, I’ve got to be with an additional class of people at Tufts which has been an absolute treat because you get to meet people who are like-minded like yourself.” Daly added, “It really does forge this [brotherhood] to play with them, so I think that will be something irreplaceable in my life. It’s the intimate relationships and bonds you create with these people when you go through this arduous, intense lifestyle. … It’s truly a unique experience.”
Daly also stressed how precious little moments with friends are and why they should never be taken for granted.
“We had our banquet this last weekend for the 2022 team, … and people were telling stories of sitting in Dewick with [their] teammates for hours on a Wednesday night talking about nonsense or soccer or school or anything. Those moments being around such close friends and being together are little moments that I definitely took for granted then but looking back now are incredibly valuable,” Daly said.
Beyond his team, Daly highlighted the strength of the larger Tufts Athletics family and how he’s deeply grateful for the support he’s felt during his time on the Hill.
“With such strong athletic programs across the board, everyone really looks out for each other and everyone’s supporting each other so you end up having this really large community of athletic teams that are all rooting for each other’s success,” Daly said. “If you look to the stands, nine out of 10 people are other athletes who are out supporting their friends and that really is an amazing experience. I’ve talked to some friends who’ve played sports elsewhere — it doesn’t seem like that’s something that can be taken for granted.”
Junior midfielder Woovin Shin commended Daly’s leadership on the team, especially having seen him grow into a more vocal figure over the last four years.
“Ian has grown as a player in many ways, but most importantly, he has become a more vocal and effective leader on and off the field,” Shin wrote in an email to the Daily. “His leadership has helped make the team stronger and more cohesive, and he has inspired others to work harder and always strive for the best.”
Also a member of the national championship-winning team, Shin recalls some of his best moments with Daly.
“Some of my best memories with Ian include winning the national championship my freshman year, practicing back in the [Bay Area] together and grabbing some incredible burritos after, and rock climbing together in the local gym,” Shin wrote. “[Daly is] an absolute legend and I am grateful to have shared time both on and off the field with him.”
Despite the highs, Daly faced his share of hurdles. Some of these came during the 2019 season. In contrast to his undefeated first year on the team, this 2019 team had to endure some tough losses while Daly was beginning to emerge as a core leader. Navigating those difficulties — especially a particularly tough 1–2–2 stretch — was hard, but Daly emphasized the importance of leaning on each other and seeing your teammates as people rather than just teammates.
“Because it is such an emotional game, you can’t always think about it in terms of logistics and soccer and tactics and teammates, you have to think about it in terms of the people that are playing the game,” Daly said. “We ended up doing pretty well in 2019 so it was nice to have a resolution to that challenge.”
In terms of individual and team growth, Daly commended the high-quality recruitment following his first year and how this has pushed everyone on the team to be better players.
“Individually, one of the biggest things I’ve noticed is strength,” Daly said. “We have such amazing trainers and athletic staff and gym facilities at Tufts, so if you listen to what the coaches say it’s hard not to get a little stronger. I would also say the confidence I have in myself as a player grew a ton [from] being around a very positive community of players and coaches who are always encouraging you to strive and take risks.”
Daly also discussed noticing the team grow stronger and more competitive after several years of really competitive and successful play.
“By the time I was a senior, the kids in the team were unbelievable,” Daly said. “It became a great competitive environment to be in because you have these guys who largely were considering either [Division I] schools or Tufts, and that’s incredibly valuable for Tufts soccer. … So that was definitely a significant change.”
One of these talented players is sophomore forward Ethan Feigin who explained how Daly has influenced him in his two years at Tufts.
“When I first joined the team, Ian was definitely someone I looked up to,” Feigin wrote in an email to the Daily. “Being on a team with 7 super seniors, it would have been easy for him to let them take the majority of the leadership roles within the team, but from day one he was always a leader on and off the field. Off the field, he was someone you were always comfortable approaching and asking questions about anything. On the field, he wasn’t only the most skilled and technical player, but was the hardest working by a substantial margin.”
Despite the stellar accolades and statistics which include more than 80 games for Tufts and 19 goals, Daly’s impact on the Tufts soccer program runs deeper than scoresheets and trophies. His legacy rests on sheer grit, collective growth and passion for the people and game he loves.