The FC Wisconsin class of 2016 sent 12 players into college soccer, and what an impact they made at schools all over the country! Four of the players from the class of 2016 took the time to share their thoughts on the transition to college soccer, the emotions they went through in pre-season and through the regular season, and some thoughts looking back on their freshman season and even their time at FC Wisconsin. Kate Del Fava (Illinois State), Jess Cooley (SMU), Kat Schmidt (Wright State), and Payton Wesley (Wisconsin) all had tremendous freshman seasons, contributing in big ways to their team’s successes.
Read below their thoughts on the experience so far! The nervousness of the transition, the battles of confidence, and the exhilaration of big moments on the field are familiar to every player. Ultimately the hard work they did as youth players, and their continued work and perseverance in college, made it possible for them to begin their careers in a great place. Will you be the next to do the same?
1) What was the transition to college soccer like? Did you feel prepared to make the change?
Kate: The transition to college was pretty smooth for me. Playing at FC Wisconsin definitely prepared me well for the college level. I felt that I had a solid base that many of my teammates didn’t have coming in. The little details that were hammered into my brain during countless training sessions at FC Wisconsin proved their importance when my college coaches didn’t need to reinforce them with me. I was ready to go from the first training session.
Jess: The transition to college soccer was difficult in the beginning, but got a lot easier as I got to know my teammates. The play was a lot faster, but once I got used to it and comfortable with my new teammates, it was really fun. I was extremely prepared to make the change because of the practices and intensity at FC Wisconsin.
Kat: The transition to college was smoother then I expected, but going into preseason was more stressful then I imagined. However, FC Wisconsin helped my transition run smoothly. The Division 1 environment is tough, but the structure of practices and environment of FC Wisconsin helped me start at Wright State on a strong note. Once I started training and settled in, I felt like I was beyond prepared for college. Not only was I physically prepared, but I was mentally prepared for the D1 level due to FC Wisconsin.
Payton: Coming from FC Wisconsin, I felt like I was very prepared for the transition to college soccer. There were obviously some physical things I needed to get used to playing in the Big 10 at a higher level, but I felt very prepared for most of the mental aspects of college soccer.
2) What was your favorite moment of the season?
Kate: My favorite moment of this season was when we beat Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The game was such a battle as we went ahead twice, only to have them tie it up. It ended up going to penalty kicks and I got to take the 4th one. The feeling right after we won is something I will definitely cherish for a long time.
Jess: My favorite moment of the season was probably our conference tournament. We didn't win the tournament, but we beat Central Florida in penalty kicks. Unfortunately, we lost to UConn in the finals, but those two games were some of the most intense, fun and competitive games that I've ever been a part of.
Kat: My favorite moment during the season was my first ever start in college. With starting the second game of the season, I could never have been so happy. Getting to start games showed that my work has paid off. I loved getting to walk out on the field and having my named be announced in front of fans, friends, and family. It was both a nervous and happy moment.
Payton: My favorite moment of the season is when we played the #1 seed Florida in the second round of the NCAA tournament. No one really expected us to win and we were up 2-1 towards the end of the game. It was the craziest game I've ever played in and the crowd was very loud and involved in the game. Unfortunately, we ended up losing 3-2 in double overtime, but being able to play in such an amazing game was a great learning experience and I think it really brought us closer together as a team.
3) What was the most difficult thing to get used to in college?
Kate: The speed of play within the games is definitely something that took a little getting used to. At the college level, everything just feels faster. Adjusting to that was certainly challenging, yet exciting. Also, just learning how to balance being a full-time student athlete. Learning how to balance practice and class everyday took some getting used to.
Jess: The most difficult thing to get used to was adapting to a new team and the speed and physicality of the play.
Kat: The most difficult thing to get used to at college was time commitment. Being on the road a lot, I had to miss a ton of school. However, my coaches, athletic advisor, teachers, and teammates were always there to help me succeed not only on the field but in the classroom. It was difficult, however, I got used to it as the season progressed.
Payton: The most difficult thing to get used to in college was probably learning to balance school with soccer. Not only do you have to come in to a completely new team and atmosphere, but you also are also taking more challenging classes and have more responsibilities.
4) Did you have a moment in pre-season or early in the regular season when you realized you could make a big impact on the team?
Kate: The first moment I realized I could make an impact was when I was told I would be starting our first game of the season. It gave me confidence knowing that my coaches thought I could make an impact on the field for our team in our first game. There were also a lot of little moments and victories within training that allowed me to realize I could make an impact, not only on the field but as a teammate as well.
Jess: I wasn't 100% sure in pre-season what my role would be on the team as the season started, but as we started non conference play (probably after the first couple games), I thought that I would be able to make an impact right away.
Kat: The moment I realized I was going to make an impact was my first college game against Notre Dame. I got to play 60+ minutes in the game as a freshman and was beyond happy. That game made me realize I could make an impact on the team and have a successful freshman season. That game was one of my proudest moments.
Payton: Early in the season we played Stanford who at the time was the #1 team in the country. We went down 2-0 early in the game but eventually came back 2-1 and were fighting to win. I think this was kind of the game I realized I could really hang with some of the best players in the country and then moving on with the rest of the season from there I think I gained a lot more confidence.
5) After making this transition to college soccer, what would you say to the U15-U18 players in the club?
Kate: I would say to cherish the moments they have playing club soccer with their teammates. College soccer is awesome but don’t look past the time you have now. Use every day to your advantage to prepare yourself for the future. If you do the work now, I promise it will pay off. Also, remember to enjoy the little moments you have now with your best friends. College will be here before you know it.
Jess: I would tell them to keep working on getting better technically because everyone is good with the ball at the next level, and the speed of play is quicker, so first touch is very important.
Kat: I would say to keep striving. Keep working 110% in practice and work outside of practice too. Every practice is a time to get a little bit better and work outside of practice is to help you achieve that. Never stop working hard and never slack off, because it will hurt you in the season, in the recruiting process or getting ready to take on college ball. With all that said, always have fun. Having fun and loving the game is a big part of succeeding in soccer as well.
Payton: First of all, I would say enjoy every moment that you have now in club. You will miss the bond you create with your teammates and being able to travel to all of the ECNL events. Also, use every training to prepare you for the next level. Don't waste any opportunities to get better. There is always something you can improve on.