Walk-Ons Stepping Up

Oct. 17, 2006

IOWA CITY – In a money driven society, it’s difficult to find athletes to compete day in and day out without receiving any compensation. Playing a game because you love it is rarely seen in major college sports. But, in collegiate Olympic sports, the love can still be found. For Iowa women’s soccer team, former walk-ons, Claire Goldenberg and Melisa Kaetterhenry, have had an effect on the program.

Walk-ons can make a collegiate team tick. They are the individuals who are there for no reason other than their love for the game. For the soccer program which has only 14 scholarships, it’s essential to find players like Goldenberg and Kaetterhenry. They have come to Iowa because they wanted to compete in the Big Ten.

“They have a tremendous love for the institution,” Head Coach Ron Rainey said about Goldenberg and Kaetterhenry. You have two people who really love Iowa and the University and then it just transfers over onto the soccer field.”

“They have a tremendous love for the institution. You have two people who really love Iowa and the University and then it just transfers over onto the soccer field.”
Head Coach Ron Rainey

Offers were there at the division two and three levels, but the two loved Iowa and wanted to compete for a Big Ten school. Although the desire to play at Iowa was there, the two took different paths to get their spots on the team and eventually have their hard work rewarded with scholarships.

When Goldenberg tried out she knew she needed to be in top physical shape. After being a very successful three-sport athlete in high school, she was surprised to see that some of the players on the team were in top shape while others weren’t.

She did whatever she had to do to earn a spot on the team. This even meant changing positions. At Oak Park and River Forest High School, she was a prolific scorer with 67 goals in her four years, including a school record 25 her senior season.

“When I came here, one area we were weak was at was defense,” Goldenberg said. “If I wanted to play, that’s where I’d have to make an impact. I said alright, I’ll do what I need to do to play. I stopped playing forward and started playing defense and I loved it.”

Kaetterhenry’s path was different because she didn’t make the team the first time she tried out. When she came in during the fall, she knew they would only be taking one or two walk-ons. After not making the team, she decided to stay in shape and play pick up games with the men’s club team. The following spring, she was given the opportunity to try out again and this time made the team.

At the time, there weren’t any real strong leaders on the team. There was room for the two to step up and make a difference on the field. The two came in and worked as hard as they could to not only compete for a spot, but in the process they were able to motivate and challenge their teammates who were on scholarship.

“When we walked on there were a lot of opportunities to prove yourself and to take on a role,” Goldenberg said.

Off the field, the two have done quite well for themselves. They were both named to the academic all-Big Ten team in their first two seasons. They do the balancing act of school and soccer because they love it.

Being a nursing major, Kaetterhenry has found it to be tricky at times because of scheduling. She has tried to work around practice conflicts by taking winter and summer classes and taking lighter course loads during the fall.

Rainey wouldn’t expect anything less. He believes their work ethic won’t allow them to do poorly in the classroom.

“When you’re doing well in the classroom it allows you to free your mind when you come out onto the practice field and probably vice versa” said Rainey.