The St. Louis University women's soccer team opened eyes this season after a 6-0-1 start, including a 1-1 tie Sept. 8 against then-19th ranked Kansas. A state of Missouri collegiate women's soccer record crowd of 5,205 attended the game at Robert R. Hermann Stadium.
Alli Klug, Mary Niehaus and Molly Ream played all 110 minutes. Courtney Reimer logged 106 minutes. Niehaus, a goalie, made a career-high eight saves, six of which came in the second half and first overtime.
The four graduates of Catholic high schools in St. Louis were interviewed recently on campus in between their classes. Klug and Niehaus attended Nerinx Hall High School, Ream went to St. Dominic High School and Reimer went to Duchesne.
Klug, a sophomore defender from Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves, leads the team in minutes played. She eagerly awaited the beginning of the season. "Everyone puts their whole heart into it... and has such passion for soccer," she said, adding that "things just started to click."
Klug has older brothers who played baseball, and participating in sports came naturally to her. She played CYC basketball, soccer and volleyball. "Sports have always been part of my life. It's a way to get out my creativity and blow some steam off at times," Klug said.
A physical therapy major, she chose to attend Nerinx knowing that it would be challenging academically, and is glad she did because it prepared her so well for college. "The teachers expected a lot of us and they made us set goals and achieve those goals," she said. "That's one of the things you have to do in college, and if you don't, you'll fall behind."
The goal-setting translates to soccer. "It's a 365-day-a-year process in preparing yourself to reach those goals," she said.
Niehaus, a parishioner at St. Joseph in Cottleville, was the Atlantic 10 Conference women's soccer co-Defensive Player of the Week for Nov. 4-10. The team has grown through the years due to the efforts of the coaches and previous players, she said. "I've met some truly amazing people on this team. What they left behind is such a good culture, and they created such good chemistry on our current team. It's an honor to play with everyone because you know when they step on the field they'll work 100 percent for you and you'll do the same for them. That's what payed off in our success so far."
She's loved sports since playing games with her siblings, cousins and neighbors — competing but "not worried about what others are thinking."
The senior neuroscience major said the teachers at Nerinx are passionate and care about the students. "I knew they cared about me when they were asking me to do all these things and basically getting no sleep my junior year," she said to the understanding laughter of her teammates.
Reimer, a sophomore midfielder from St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles, had two assists in early season action in a key role. She followed an older sister who played soccer several years ago.
A self-described "super-competitive player," she enjoyed the large crowd and intense action of the Kansas game, thinking afterward that "Wow, I just really love soccer. That was so much fun."
An occupational therapy major, she benefited from the teacher-student rapport at a smaller, close-knit high school. She played basketball and soccer at Duchesne and learned to manage her time well. "It's important organizing yourself because it's a whole new level in college," she said.
Ream, a senior defender from St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville, also has started every game this season. The closeness of the team transfers to the field, she said. "We know exactly where people are. We know their strengths and their tendencies. For example, we're not going to throw the ball over the top when we know someone is better with the ball at their feet."
A communications sciences disorder (speech pathologist) major, she praised her St. Dominic teachers. "If you were struggling they were more than willing to stay after school or come before school to help you. They definitely pushed you to be the best academically that you could be."
The former rivals on the high school level laughed about ending up as teammates. "You go to Duchesne and then you come here to SLU and play with a Dominic girl. You gotta close the book here," Reimer said with a laugh.
Another SLU player who attended a Catholic high school in St. Louis is freshman goalie Kat Zaber of Visitation Academy.
Katie Shields, who guided the 2016 Billikens to 14 wins and an A-10 regular-season runner-up finish in 2016, is in her fifth season as SLU's head coach. "From an academic standpoint, connection to the community standpoint and competitive standpoint, we have outstanding individuals," she said.
>> Faith life
Alli Klug saw a ladybug on someone's shirt before a St. Louis University game. A ladybug, to her, is symbolic of her grandfather, the late David Aussieker. "When I saw it, I felt it was like God being there with me," Klug said.
It gave her confidence and strength to play her hardest. "And it does every single game, knowing he's there right with me," Klug said.
Mary Niehaus has a routine on game days that includes waking up with a cup of coffee and praying the Rosary, which helps her focus and remember what's important in her life.
During the National Anthem she looks up and thinks about her late grandfather, Don Kozlowski, a patriotic and strong Catholic man who was a good role model for her faith. "I think about him and everything he helped my family get through his hard work and his faith. It's like a prayer honoring my grandpa when I think about him."
Molly Ream had a dream about her late grandfather, Martin Gorman, before a big game vs. Kansas. "He came up to me and gave me a hug. I could feel him hugging me. He used to tell me before every game, 'Keep passing the ball, don't stop passing the ball.' ... It makes me feel he's still there with me even though he's not physically there."
Courtney Reimer said Catholic schools gave her a sense of sportsmanship that she carries today. Also, she said, "Just knowing you're playing for something bigger than yourself. You're also playing for your team and your family whose supported you through soccer your whole life."
The St. Louis University women's soccer team was to play on the road against Evansville Sept. 15 and Murray State Sept. 17.
Upcoming home games are at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, against St. Bonaventure; 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, against St. Joseph's; and 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, against Dayton.
For a full schedule, ticket information and more, visit www.stlouisreview.com/jWj.