Sept. 29, 2005
IOWA CITY – The Iowa soccer team has talent from all over the country. Eight states are represented. Seven are from Colorado, five from Wisconsin and four from Illinois. And while the state of Iowa has fewer players than some states, Head Coach Carla Baker covets Iowans Kelsie Full, Abby Gierke, and Jackie Kaeding.
She loves these three because they’ve overcome the biggest hurdle that Iowa high school girls face: soccer simply isn’t real popular yet.
Iowans will sit outside in freezing temperatures in late November to watch football games, and they’ll travel in thousands to watch wrestling tournaments. But when it comes to Iowa high school girls soccer, quality players – and fans – are few and far between compared to states such as Illinois, Colorado, and California.
This is a disadvantage for Iowa high school girls devoted to the sport. It’s difficult to improve when there’s a shortage of quality competition to play against. Girls in bigger states can play in a competitive game every day. However, the Iowa girls who are serious about soccer sometimes go weeks without playing a quality opponent. The Iowa girls who have made it onto the Hawkeye team were willing to drive hours all over the state during high school to find other talented players. Coach Baker admires that dedication.
“They’ve always had to play up an age group so they could stretch their potential and really develop their skills,” said Baker. “They had to compete against older girls and boys. That’s what they’ve had to overcome to get to this point.”
Kelsie Full and Abby Gierke are both sophomores. Full is from Iowa City and Gierke is from Bettendorf. They’ve known each other since fourth grade because they traveled together to Des Moines to play soccer. They say none of their teammates had to travel as much to play quality opponents.
“Every year we try and find the best Iowans to be a part of our program. That’s very important to us. We want to keep that tradition alive. We know people in the state of Iowa bleed black and gold.”
Head Coach Carla Baker
“People on the team think it’s crazy that she’d (Gierke) drive four hours to play soccer,” says Full. “But that was a sacrifice we had to make. Anybody in a bigger state would never play with someone that lived that far away.”
Other Big Ten and Midwest schools have an advantage over Iowa because their states have bigger youth and high school girl’s soccer programs. Some states have hundreds of division-one prospects every year. There is usually only a handful in Iowa. But that doesn’t mean Coach Baker overlooks recruits from the state of Iowa. She’s always looking to put another Iowan in a Hawkeye uniform.
“Every year we try and find the best Iowans to be a part of our program. That’s very important to us. We want to keep that tradition alive. We know people in the state of Iowa bleed black and gold,” said Baker.
Coach Baker likes having Iowans on the team, but she doesn’t make any exceptions in quality just to keep a few natives on the squad. The program maintains the same high standard of quality for all student-athletes regardless of what state they come from.
Sophomore Abby Gierke is from Bettendorf
“We try to find those student athletes who will fit into the team’s philosophy, chemistry, and personality and then are able to compete on the playing field when it is all said and done. The student athletes that we have from the state of Iowa can definitely do that,” said Baker.
The Hawkeyes will be back in action Thursday (September 29) when they play Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.