Senior Mikaela Zook (Millersburg, Ind./Northridge) was a force to be reckoned with on Eastern Mennonite University’s women’s soccer defensive line, and this week she wrapped up her soccer career with being voted onto the All-ODAC Third Team by the other coaches in the conference.
Zook transferred to EMU her junior year, after spending two years at Hesston College.
“Selfishly, I wish we could have had her for all four years,” said Coach Ted Erickson. “She is a true competitor, who shows up to work hard every day, never moans about the hard practices, and is great to her teammates.”
Coming to EMU was a leap of faith for Zook.
“I didn’t know anyone,” she said, “so that was really hard. That was a hard transition.”
She had to get to know an entirely new team, and find her place.
“At the beginning of last season I didn’t play as much because I had to earn my spot on the team, earn my role, too,” she said. “And my position was an outside defender, but initially that role was already filled.”
However, it did not take too long for Zook to find her groove on the team.
“I guess maybe mid-season, I started playing outside back and then I just sort of stayed there,” she said.
Zook prepared for her second and senior season with the Royals by running with her sisters and going to the gym.
“I actually love running, so that’s kind of a hobby,” she said. “It releases stress.”
The team chemistry was a highlight of the season for Zook.
“Everyone got along, and the incoming freshmen were just awesome,” she said. “We were all competitive with each other, like all of our positions were very competitive in terms of who started, who played, but I don’t think we let that interfere with the relationships on the team.”
Zook worked to provide guidance to the freshmen defenders she played with, but the main way she led her team this year was by helping to facilitate good teamwork. “I kind of just do my job,” Zook said. “I think it’s more of just a team effort is how I look at leadership, so like working well together.”
Zook is a health and physical education major with a kinesiology minor, and plans to stay in Harrisonburg for a couple years. She’ll do her student teaching next fall.
Zook has mixed feelings about the end of her soccer career.
“I would say its overall rewarding but also kind of sad that I’m closing that chapter in my life which has been a part of my life since, I don’t know, third grade,” she said, pausing. “So [I’ll be] finding something else to replace that.”
Zook’s parents initially wanted her to play basketball, which she did for many years.
“I kept coming back to soccer, and I kept wanting to play more,” she said. “And I think as the years went on my parents kind of started to like soccer.”
Zook appreciated having her teammates this season to lift her spirits at the end of the day.
“I think a major highlight of the season was just that I can go from having a not so good day of classes…and just go to practice, and there are girls on the team that are always so happy and it’s so contagious,” she said. “I’m definitely going to miss the personalities and playing with them in general.”
“We will miss Mikaela,” Erickson said. “Her shoes will be extremely hard to fill next season. But we are excited to see her become a truly great teacher.”