This past fall, Trinity Lutheran seniors Lydia Haak and Taylor Russell trekked north past Milwaukee for a visit to Concordia University Wisconsin.
While Haak knew the school well through her brother, Nikolai, Russell got a chance for a first look at the institution.
By the time they made it back to Seymour, both were enamored by the school on Lake Michigan.
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Last week the two made it official, as Haak signed to play soccer and Russell penned her letter to join the softball team at Concordia.
Concordia is an NCAA Division III school, and member of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
In her junior year at Trinity, Haak first visited Concordia with Nikolai, who is now a member of the cross-country and track and field teams.
During that visit, Haak said she visited with the soccer coach.
From there, she had a pretty good idea of where her future was heading.
Haak, who is the first girl in school history to play soccer all four years at Trinity, said she likes the environment at Concordia.
“It’s a good campus,” Haak said. “There’s a lot of people there, but it’s very homely. Even though it’s six hours away it feels like home.”
Last fall, the Falcons’s women’s soccer team went.
With a strong knowledge of the game, Haak hopes to make an impact on the pitch at the next level.
“I know the game inside and out, the rules, mechanics, strategies,” Haak said. “I study the game. Another thing would be defense, my primary role. There are some areas I could most definitely improve on but my read on the ball and judging where it is going next has really grown and gotten me far in the world of soccer.”
Trinity coach Jeff Nolting said that Haak’s love of the game, and work ethic, will push Haak to higher achievement.
“She just truly loves soccer,” Nolting said. “She’s dedicated to the game and will do all the right things to be a good teammate.
“She has a nose for the ball and the smarts about her. She knows where she needs to be positionally and how to keep the shape of the formation.”
Haak said she plans on studying athletic training.
The decision to continue softball at the next level wasn’t an easy one for Russell.
“In order to play college softball, you have to not only play in high school but on travel and go to college exposures,” Russell said. “It’s a really long process. I started playing with this travel team that focuses on getting you to college.”
It was a coach with the travel team, based in Hauser, that helped Russell make her decision.
“About a year ago, I decided that I was going to play college softball again after subbing in for one of their players,” Russell said. “The coach told me that I could play anywhere I wanted to play If I put my mind to it.
I went to Concordia and visited with Lydia and her family over fall break and met the softball coach. It wasn’t serious then, but it became more serious. Over Christmas break I went to their softball camp, and then I verbally committed.”
Last spring, the center fielder finished with 27 hits, a .403 batting average, 19 RBI and 26 runs scored.
“I can read the ball really fast, and I think that’s something that will help me,” Russell said. “The coach is really excited because I just changed to left-handed slapping. So, we’ve been working on that a lot with (coach) Chad (Goecker). I think that’s going to help a lot next year.”
Russell said she looks forward at potentially playing in the NCAA Tournament down the road.
“I think the thing I’m looking forward to most is just playing at the college level,” she said. “It’s a big deal and exciting.”
In 2016, the Falcons’ softball team finished 26-17.
Russell said she’s going to study elementary education with a minor in Spanish.