The 3rd Man In

Vanden Avond approaches NCAA history

On an overcast, humid September day back in 2011, St. Norbert College made the short journey to Sheboygan, Wis. to face Lakeland College. The small crowd of 50 fans were unaware that they were about to witness the beginning of a special and historic college career for one freshman player.

Forward Katie Vanden Avond, a De Pere, Wis. native, was surprised to receive the starting nod in her first collegiate game for St. Norbert College. But after 90 minutes on the pitch, she looked like a seasoned veteran, accomplishing an incredible task of scoring four goals in the game.

“I remember that so well,” Vanden Avond said regarding her first collegiate game. “I was shocked to even be starting in that game and I didn’t expect any of it. It just kind of hit me.”

However, there was a time that she thought she might not even earn the chance to compete at the collegiate level.

During high school, St. Norbert College was the only school to offer her the opportunity to play soccer at the next level. While she said isn’t exactly sure why she didn’t receive much interest, missing her entire junior season due to an ACL injury sure didn’t help.

“That is what my high school coaches thought,” Vanden Avond said regarding her ACL injury having an effect on recruitment. “Maybe there was a chance that I could’ve gotten some other opportunities but the reason was probably just bad timing.”

Looking back on the recruiting experience, Vanden Avond remarked that she is happy with the way things worked out.

“I was just really thankful for the opportunity,” Vanden Avond said. “Soccer was my favorite thing to do in high school and to be able to play at the college level, I know not many people get that opportunity, so I was pretty appreciative of that.”

Now in her senior season and with 116 goals under her belt, she has put together a career that many dream of.

With seven regular season games remaining, Vanden Avond has the opportunity to make history. She is quickly approaching the all-time women’s Division III career goals scored mark of 124, set by Katie Pettigrew from Luther (Ill.) from 2001-2004.

If she accomplishes this task, she will only trail Missy Gregg for the all-time women’s NCAA record for career goals scored. Gregg tallied 180 goals in her career with Dayton (Division I) and Christian Brothers University (Division II) from 1999-2000, 2001-2002.

However, Vanden Avond isn’t focused on the record and said she feels no pressure to break it.

“I guess to me it doesn’t really matter if I break the record,” Vanden Avond said. “I think my dad is the one who cares the most about it.”

Vanden Avond is a humble player despite all of her success freshman teammate Monica Stephans stated.

“She does not bring it up and she does not brag about it,” Stephans said regarding Vanden Avond and her quest to make history. “She will kindly accept everybody’s encouragement and congrats but she herself will not be the one to boast about it.”

Instead, Vanden Avond said she is focused exclusively on one thing – getting her team to the NCAA Tournament.

St. Norbert College (7-4, 4-1) has started off the year strong, thanks in large part to Vanden Avond. She has registered 25 goals in 11 games this season – an impressive number especially since she missed all last season due to a fracture in her right leg.

Vanden Avond’s ambition and determination to continue to get better is what sets her apart from the rest Stephans said.

“I think Katie is special because in practice she is always working hard even though she has achieved so much,” Stephans said. “She is still hungry for goals when she gets out there and works her tail off. She sets an example for us. Overall she works hard even though she’s already at a high level. She doesn’t stop pushing herself to get better.”

Once the season concludes for the Green Knights, Vanden Avond will go down as the greatest scorer in St. Norbert College soccer history.

Vanden Avond is still unsure on her future after she graduates in December, but with a major in Communications and a minor in Business and Leadership, she said she plans on figuring it out once the season is over.

She did make it clear that once her career with St. Norbert College concludes, that she plans on hanging up the cleats for good.

“I don’t think so due to two reasons,” Vanden Avond said regarding the possibility of playing soccer in the future. “I don’t know how much more my body can take, and I really don’t think what we have as a team at St. Norbert and as a school can really be recreated anywhere else.

“I think that the situation I’m in couldn’t really be any better. I’m appreciative of that, but I don’t think I am going to look for anything else after that.”

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