April 12, 2012
As a four-year starter for the University of Minnesota women's basketball team, Jackie Voigt was the prime example of a well-rounded student-athlete. She was a leader on the court, in the classroom and in the community, and now she is taking that example from the hardwood to the soccer pitch, as she is an official member of the Golden Gopher women's soccer team.
"I was given the opportunity by the head coach (Mikki Denney Wright)," Voigt said. "The team needed a goalie to step up, especially for this spring, because its starting goalie (Cat Parkhill) is out with a knee injury right now. I thought that it would be something fun and something different. I loved playing soccer in high school and this is a great opportunity to learn from a different set of coaches and to get to know more people by playing with a whole new group of players."
An all-state goalkeeper as a senior at Park High School, Voigt was approached by Denney Wright to join the squad following the Gophers' run to the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) Championship and started practicing with the team just eight days later.
"I'm a little sore to say the least," Voigt said days after beginning practice. "There are some similarities between playing basketball and soccer, which have helped me out a lot, especially with hand-eye coordination. But, also getting stronger over the last four years has been helpful. I haven't touched a soccer ball since my senior year of high school, so I'm a little sore doing different things like diving on the ground and just using different muscles."
Voigt already had a connection to the soccer team before accepting a spot on Minnesota's roster, as it was her and Parkhill that battled it out in goal in the 2007 Minnesota Section 3AA Championship Game. With the game scoreless through regulation, the contest came down to a shootout. Though it was Eastview High School and Parkhill who came out on top, the pair has reminisced fondly about the game and Voigt only has good memories of her successful senior campaign.
"I was the backup goalie my sophomore and junior year for the varsity team, and then my senior year I was the starting goalkeeper for every game. I had a pretty good defensive line that year, one of my former teammates, Briana Westlund, plays at Northwestern now, so, obviously that helped a lot. But, I think I really grew my senior year as a goalkeeper. Our team lost in the section championships that year in a shootout, and it was actually me in goal against Cat. So, we go back to that a lot. I was fortunate enough to be named all-state and I played in the senior all-star game. I had a pretty good senior year of soccer."
To say Voigt's senior year was just "pretty good" is a definite understatement. She allowed only seven goals the entire season, while racking up 80 saves, a .344 goals against average and 14 shutouts in 21 games. With her selection to the all-state team at the conclusion of the campaign, Voigt became the first female athlete in Park High School history to earn all-state honors in three sports - soccer, basketball and track & field.
Along with similar skill sets, Voigt noted that playing on the soccer team also resembles the women's basketball team in the way players have embraced her and welcomed her into the group. It is never easy being the new kid on the block, but Voigt knows that fitting in with her new set of teammates and coaches will not be a problem.
"All the players are really great and, very similar to basketball, they are really close," Voigt said. "They have really embraced me. The coaches have been taking it slow, getting back to the basics and trying to get me into a position where I can do well."
Voigt also has no shortage of support from her parents, Paul and Claudia. The pair rarely missed a basketball game that their daughter played in during her four years as a Gopher, at Williams Arena or on the road, and are excited that Voigt continues to follow her heart and does what makes her happy.
"(My parents) were really happy for me," Voigt said of their reaction to her joining the soccer team. "They know that I liked soccer. I played soccer just as long as I did basketball up until college, but it just wasn't my No. 1 sport. But, they are very supportive and if it was something that I wanted to do, then they wanted me to do it."
Though she has an amazing support system both on and off of the field, Voigt is still nervous to play in her first collegiate soccer game and get her first taste of live action since the shootout in 2007.
"I am really nervous," Voigt said of playing in her first contest. "I was nervous for the first day of practice, but I am through that now. When that first game comes I will be really nervous, although I know a lot of people are very supportive and know that I haven't played soccer in four years. They don't have expectations out the window for me, but they are very confident in my abilities."
It is not yet certain whether Voigt will continue playing on the team during the traditional fall season, but she is optimistic that if all goes well, her name will appear on an official Golden Gopher roster one more year.
"I am using the spring season as a judgement, and if it is something that turns out well, then my plan would be to play in the fall as a fifth-year senior," Voigt said. "We are just going to take it as time goes, but that is the plan. I have one semester left of my graduate classes and I'll be able to finish up those classes while playing soccer. So, sports aren't done for me yet."
Voigt and the Gophers will take to the pitch Sunday in the Big Ten/Big 12 Spring Challenge hosted by the University of Iowa. The Maroon and Gold will open the event vs. Iowa State, before turning around to face Kansas later in the day.
Minnesota will remain on the road to face Wisconsin on April 20 at Dorais Field at Chippewa Falls High School in Chippewa Falls, Wis., before returning home to play in their lone home contest of the spring vs. Nebraska at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on April 22.
The Maroon and Gold will close out its spring schedule with games against UW-Milwaukee and Marquette in the Wisco Springs Tournament in Madison, Wis., on April 28.