Photo by Paul Flessland
Head soccer coach Mark Cook has used his past as a pipeline for streaming in some of Minnesota’s most talented high school soccer players. Cook was the Director of Coaching at the Minnesota Thunder Academy for 11 years before coming to NDSU in 2012. He’s brought in numerous recruits from the academy, including 2016 leading Bison goal-scorer Holly Enderle and her Robbinsdale-Armstrong High School teammate Mariah Haberle.
Haberle was a prolific goalscorer in high school. From her centre-forward position, she banged in 30 goals her senior season, earning Haberle her second first-team all-state honor, along with being named a finalist for Ms. Soccer Minnesota. She also spearheaded the attack for the Minnesota Thunder Academy and filled the net for her club team that won the 2015 North American Championship.
The experience Haberle gained in her years through the academy were instrumental in her transition to the Division I game. She played in all 19 games her first semester in Fargo and started 15, carving her role in a team filled with nine seniors.
“It was honestly more learning here, in my brain, more than my legs,” Haberle said, describing the challenges of the transition to the college game. “I had to come in and play with these girls who have been together for so long–two, three, four years. But they helped me. All the seniors on the field, they boosted me up and gave me opportunities to be able to make decisions on the field.”
Haberle was not only learning a new style of play and different personalities on the pitch, she had to embrace a new role. Haberle wasn’t asked to finish at the net. She was asked to do something more challenging—servicing passes into the box for her teammates to score.
“I’m completely fine with that because I want to win the game,” Haberle said. “I don’t really care how we win the game, I just want to win.”
Once Haberle’s decision making caught up with her skill, she was pressing the ball all over Dacotah Field and finished her first year with six assists and two goals. She was honored with a Summit League All-Freshman team selection.
NDSU’s 2016 season ended in the first round of the Summit League tournament after they won the regular season title. It was a disappointing way for Haberle to send off the nine seniors who were instrumental in her development.
This spring, the tables have turned as Haberle is excited for a new crop of freshmen to arrive at NDSU. She said her freshman experience will be useful for the incoming recruiting class if they find their way onto the pitch.
Mingle With Mariah
Why was your club experience an important part of your high school career?
“For me, it prepared me for college more than if I wouldn’t have played. It’s really good because I have friends from all over the Twin Cities now. I have best friends that I’ll have forever. It’s just cool to experience new people and not necessarily have that in your hometown.”
Does the loss in the Summit League tournament against Oral Roberts still linger?
“It does just because we beat them in the regular season and we really wanted to play either Denver … or South Dakota State, who we lost to, and we really wanted to beat them.”
Is that loss driving you in training this spring?
“Oh yeah. It’s more internal. I think once the final whistle blew, we all had a reality check that those seniors are never going to play with us again. It was sad but I think we have to move on. We have to let it go, and we have to use it in the back of our head as the drive for next year.
How’s the team’s form right now?
“We’ve had a couple meetings about how we’re going to take on this spring and we talked about how mistakes are going to happen and moving on from them quickly. For our takeaway this spring, it’s growing as a team and using all of our opportunities to get better together. ‘Get Better Together’ to our advantage and not taking (the offseason) lightly. We have a 6 a.m. run, individuals with the coaches and practice. You’re going into everything at 100 percent because you know it’s going to make all of us successful in the long run.”