MEQUON, Wis. – The transition from high school to collegiate athletics can be difficult for any athlete. The game gets faster, the players are bigger and stronger and the amount of time and preparation needed to be put in only grows for each student-athlete.
The Concordia University Wisconsin Women's Soccer team had three players who made that transition look seamless in 2012 in forwards Emily Ciesielczyk (Waukesha, Wis.), Brittany Klumpp (Rubicon, Wis.) and Carley Pfannerstill (Grafton, Wis.).
All Ciesielczyk, Klumpp and Pfannerstill did in their freshman season was combine for 94 points (32 goals, 30 assists). Ciesielczyk finished third in the nation in assists with 17, Klump was named NAC Freshman of the Year after scoring a team-high 19 goals and Pfannerstill displayed her versatility by sending home 10 goals and dishing out nine assists.
"I was a little scared and nervous coming in, but took what I knew from the past to help with the transition," said Klumpp, who also ranked ninth in the country with seven game-winning goals.
Certainly freshmen come into their first season of collegiate competition not knowing exactly what to expect. Last season, having strong captains and senior leaders helped make things go smoother and helped those three adjust to college soccer immediately.
"Lauren Straehler was a good role model for us both on and off the field last season," said Ciesielczyk, a Second Team All-NAC selection in 2012. "Having her and my older sister (Alyssa) really helped at the beginning of the season."
This fall the Falcons feature a young squad, one that may look to the trio of sophomores as leaders. Having that young core in place will bring challenges, but also has benefits that CUW can take advantage of.
"Having a mainly younger team will help us become closer," said Pfannerstill, who was third on the team with 29 points last season.
Ciesielczyk added: "It helps that we are mostly young because we can grow together."
Not only will the three be looked at as role models by the incoming freshman, but the trio also expects to grow on the field this fall.
"Last year we all seemed to have a set forward spot," Pfannerstill said. "This season coach mentioned we will be moving around the field more to try and make us more dynamic."
Growing into more dynamic and versatile players could certainly help make the trio even harder to stop in 2013 than they were last season, when each player was more or less defined to one role. Ciesielczyk was the playmaker, setting up teammates and leading the NAC in assists. Klumpp was the finisher as she scored 19 times despite taking only 48 shots and Pfannerstill was the balanced player, proving she could both score (10 goals) and help others score (nine assists).
Each player admitted that having the other two on the field with them not only helps focus attention elsewhere, but also makes them perform their roles easier.
"These two (Klumpp and Pfannerstill) are easy to find on the field and they both move into the open spaces well," Ciesielczyk said.
As freshman Ciesielczyk, Klumpp and Pfannerstill moved all over the field, confusing defenses and helping CUW average 3.85 goals per game, eighth best in all of NCAA Division III. Only time will tell what the trio will have in store for 2013, but one thing is for certain - CUW will have three sophomores capable of making big plays at any time and likely during critical moments of the match.