Women’s soccer seniors reflect on OU careers

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Women’s soccer had a very successful first year in the Horizon League, going 10-9-2 (4-3) and making it to the Horizon League Championship game before losing a tightly contested 4-3 contest against Milwaukee on Nov. 10, 2013.

The 2013 roster featured eight seniors, leadership that will be greatly missed. Seniors Kourtney Grant, Abigail Haelewyn, Jordan Penz and Meghan Reynolds reflected on their playing careers as Golden Grizzlies.

Can you speak on this year’s conference tournament and making it to the finals, what was that experience like?

Grant: Being the newbies in the conference, it was a great experience to make it that far in the conference. Of course we would have liked to win, but all of that will come with time. Making it to the finals just (shows) that Oakland is here to compete and will not be walked over so easily.

Haelewyn: It was very exciting. Making it to the finals was a great achievement for us as a new team in the Horizon League. 

Penz: Having gone so far into our conference tournament was a dream come true. The result of the game was not what we wanted, however. It was a very nice tournament, it was run well and it was organized.

Reynolds: It was a great experience making it to the Horizon League finals this year. Would have obviously liked a better result to have happened but glad we showed we can compete in the Horizon League. 

Favorite memories of your career?

Grant: One of my favorite memories occurred during my freshmen year. It was pouring rain outside around midnight and we were bored. A couple of us decided it would be a great idea to play tackle football outside on the upper fields. The best part of it was we dragged out some of the guys on the men’s team and the sophomores at the time. It was a legit, no mercy tackle football game and it was pouring and freezing but we had so much fun. The only thing that made us go inside was the lightening that came nearly an hour and a half after us playing. We walked back to Hamlin laughing and we still talk about it now.

Haelewyn: One of my favorite memories was beating Ohio State in PK’s last year in the first round of the NCAA (tournament). I also enjoyed playing with my older sister, Dani, while she was on the team my freshmen year. 

Penz: Beating Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tournament my junior year. That was something that a lot of people did not expect and we won in penalty kicks. Nothing is more exciting than beating a Top-20 ranked team in penalty kicks, that celebration is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Reynolds: My favorite memory at Oakland was beating Ohio State my junior year and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

Was your playing career at Oakland everything you expected it to be? Was there a difference between expectation and reality?

Grant: I think when you come in as a freshmen you have a completely different set of expectations. You have to work a little harder to earn the respect of your teammates who have been there years before you. Preseason is the most important time to do so. Once you can overcome that time period, playing becomes a little bit easier and you gain a little more confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Haelewyn: It was a great experience. I didn’t really have any set expectations, but it was way better than anything I could have predicted. 

Penz: I came in knowing that nothing was going to be easy but I was going to have the time of my life. I dealt with some roller coasters that were not expected at all, along with seven knee surgeries, but I would not take anything back for any reason.

Reynolds: My experience was definitely more than I expected it to be. I am very happy I decided to come to Oakland since I have loved being here and created so many memories that will be with me forever. 

How did you grow as a person over your time at Oakland? What lessons did you learn?

Grant: Patience is a virtue, as cliché has it sounds. I hardly saw the field my freshman through junior year, but I remained positive and worked hard in practice so that when I did see the field I could give my maximum effort. Nothing is ever given to you and the most important things in life you have to work for.

Haelewyn: Many new college students have to grow as a person and mature into their adulthood lives, but we were fortunate to have 30 other girls we could turn to and depend on when anything was getting hard. 

Penz: I believe that I have grown into a better person because of my coaches, teammates, classmates, friends and professors. I am getting closer to graduating and I feel more prepared for anything that life wants to throw at me than I did when I first came to Oakland.

Reynolds: I learned many lessons throughout my four years here that it would be impossible to list them. All the lessons that I learned allowed for me to grow as a person and really discover who I am. 

What area of your game do you think you improved the most in since you came here?

Grant: I think my knowledge of the game has improved over the years. I am not the fastest on the team and I cannot make the same recovery runs like Sarah Reynolds, but I am a great organizer and I can arrange the back line and defensive mids in a way that plays to our strengths. I think that part of the game has improved the most for me.

Haelewyn: I definitely improved tactically and focusing more on what the other team was doing such as formations and style of play, and how to go about playing against that. 

Penz: I think becoming a leader on and off the field has improved the most. Most of my teammates called me the “team mom” because I always looked out for everyone. I love helping people and being a part of this program has helped me become closer with individuals.

Reynolds: I think that being here improved my overall knowledge of the game. I feel as though I have become a lot smarter of a player with the knowledge I gained. 

Can you speak on your team and the group of seniors as a whole, and your relationship with them?

Grant: The team has become my family over the past four years. I will never forget these girls and the things we have accomplished over the past four years. They are an incredible and driven group of women and they will achieve nothing but success in the future. They know they can come to me if they need any help or guidance in the future.

Haelewyn: Our group of seniors is full of different personalities and every single person brings something unique to the table, which makes our class so great. 

Penz: Our senior class is one of a kind. We all stuck together the last four years, adding two to our class and losing one. That is pretty good for a Division I collegiate soccer program. We (seniors) always had each other’s back and knew each other better than we even knew ourselves sometimes. Our whole team is like a family. There was nothing that could bring us down, we are all very close to each other.

Reynolds: The senior class that we have are all (great people). We have all come close over the years of being here and get along well with each other. I am very glad I got to spend all four years with this group of people. 

Talk a little bit about your coach Dave Morgan and your relationship with him.

Grant: Dave is a great coach. He is very easy to communicate with and we talk on a regular basis about the team, where the program needs improve and what we would like to see changed in the future. Dave is really receptive to suggestions. He has also helped me see situations from a variety of perspectives. Where I might have one view point, Dave also has another that I might not have considered. This has helped me broaden my thinking a little bit more.

Haelewyn: I’ve known him all four years that I’ve been playing at Oakland University. He’s a great coach and a great person all around.

Penz: Dave did a great job this year, especially considering the position (he) was put in so suddenly. The previous three years he was the assistant coach and he did a tremendous job with that as well. Graduating from this team and from our coaching staff is a difficult thing to do because our program is a family.

Reynolds: Dave has always been a big supporter of me and the team throughout my four years here. I have enjoyed working with him and creating a relationship.

What does the future hold for you? What are your plans?

Grant: I’m currently in the process of applying for grad school at home in Ontario. I also want to coach technical development for kids in the club system at home. Soccer has taught me a lot over the years and there are a lot of youth kids who want to pursue the same dream I had when I was their age, but their technical skill might be behind those in America. I want to work with the youth programs so that I can give them a foundation to go wherever they aspire to. I’m ready to start a new chapter of my life and I will never forget this one.

Haelewyn: Hopefully graduating in the summer with a degree in psychology and then continuing school for a master’s in social work. 

Penz: I will finish with classes in summer of 2014. I will begin my student teaching internship in the fall of 2014 followed by graduating in December (of that year). Hopefully I will find a job in southeast Michigan at a middle school teaching mathematics. I plan to continue coaching soccer at the club level and hopefully move up to the high school level.

Reynolds: I am not really sure what the future holds for me, but (I plan) to graduate in April.

Anything else that you would like to add?

Grant: I would like to thank Oakland University for this incredible experience. The ability to live out my dream of playing Division I soccer and receiving an education in the U.S. will not be an experience easily forgotten.

Reynolds: Would like to thank everyone that was involved in making my time here at Oakland one that I loved and will never forget. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to play Division I soccer and have such a positive overall experience.

Haelewyn: Our group of seniors is full of different personalities and every single person brings something unique to the table, which makes our class so great.