Photos By Hillary Ehlen
Mariah Haberle and Elyse Huber have followed different paths in their collegiate soccer careers. Haberle has been with North Dakota State since stepping on campus as a freshman in 2016. Huber, on the other hand, has spent the last three seasons in the Big Ten, playing for Nebraska. She transferred to North Dakota State this past offseason.
Now, the two are not so different. They both play the forward position, they are both in their final year of collegiate soccer and they are both seen as a leader on and off the field for the Bison. Those commonalities have continued to bring the two closer together as the offseason and preseason has gone along. With the season now in full swing, both will look to pace a young Bison soccer team.
Haberle is a name Bison fans have heard for several years. She played in all 19 matches her true freshman season, garnering Summit League All-Freshman honors. Haberle was second on the team in goals in her sophomore season. Last year, she led the team in with a career-high seven goals and 16 total points. Her prowess on offense landed her on the All-Summit League First Team at the end of the year.
In the first week of this season, Haberle earned Summit League Offensive Player of the Week honors, scoring two goals in two games for the Bison.
While improving her game in her final season is important, Haberle has a different mindset as this season moves along. “I just have to remember to enjoy it. It’s kind of a bittersweet season because once you go in, after that you’re done. For me, it’s enjoying every single moment, every single game, every single bus ride, those long practices that feel like they’re taking forever,” she said. “I really need to embrace every moment and opportunity that we have together as a team and make sure I set the team up the best way possible for the next season and the years to come.”
One way Haberle has continued to savor her senior year is establishing herself as the leader in the locker room. While the Bison returned six starters from last season’s team, their roster is quite young. In all, head coach Mike Regan is bolstering 15 first or second-year players this season.
“It starts with building relationships with your teammates. We had the freshman come in a month early a had them get acclimated to how we do things, the change of scenery. I think they’ve done really well and our whole team that was here this summer did a really good job helping them come in and get comfortable,” said Haberle. “We hung out as a team a bunch and I think that really translates to the field not just as a team but as leaders. You can’t be a winning team without friendships and I think that’s the biggest piece we’ve worked with is growing those relationships and being able to trust each other on the field and off the field.”
Bison soccer had five influential seniors on its roster last year in Malley O’Brien, Hanna Norman, Mallory Fenske, Holly Enderle and Roxy Roemer. With five seniors on the squad this year, Haberle learned plenty from last year’s senior class that she plans to put into action this year.
“Work ethic as a leader. You are the eyes that everyone looks up to and all the freshmen have told me that they feel like they can ask me questions,” she said. “The biggest piece of being a leader is showing how we do Bison soccer, showing them what it takes to get through a workout, what it takes to win a game. The biggest piece from leadership down is teaching them how we do things.”
North Dakota State had a little more comfortability heading into this offseason and preseason too. Head coach Mike Regan is going into his second season and had his first full offseason with this roster over the winter and spring. Haberle feels that has helped the Bison adequately prepare for the season.
“Mike makes you feel so comfortable and makes you the player you are meant to be. He gives you the confidence to do things that you didn’t think were possible. Confidence is the biggest thing in a soccer player, if you don’t have confidence in yourself, you won’t have confidence in your teammates and then it’s just downhill from there,” she said of Regan. “He works so hard to make sure that everyone had every opportunity to showcase their skills and make themselves known.”
Huber feels the same about Regan, but she admits that confidence is something she was in need of. The senior transferred from Nebraska to North Dakota State this offseason looking for a fresh start. Huber played in 53 matches for the Cornhuskers over the past three seasons. In those three seasons, she netted eight goals and competed in two NCAA Tournament games.
Coming into a program as a senior is no doubt a challenge and Huber will be the first to admit that. However, the Bison soccer program made her feel right at home immediately. “It was kind of a hard transition for me because I was coming in as a senior and I had already made a lot of different relationships back at Nebraska,” she said. “I’m really happy with where I ended up and I really like the energy and people’s attitudes here. They accepted me right away and I really love all the girls on the team.”
Her decision to come to NDSU as a transfer was solely based on head coach Mike Regan. A Sioux City, Iowa, native, Huber was coached by Regan in Iowa’s Olympic Development Program. Her previous experience with Regan and his coaching style made NDSU stand out from the crowd of schools recruiting her.
“I had a lot of other schools picked out and I wasn’t really sure where my next school would be. Mike [Regan] actually coached me in ODP when I was about 15 and I always had a really good connection with him,” she said. “I knew he was the coach that could rebuild my confidence and get me to where I need to be academically as well as encourage and support me throughout the entire season.”
Getting acclimated with the team and coaching staff is one challenge as a transfer. The other is being able to make an impact on the field as quickly as possible. Huber notes that her confidence level as a striker is the most important component. “It has a lot to do with confidence, especially being a striker,” she said. “Finishing is all about your confidence and having those people around you to support you and also teaching you and helping you with whatever you need to be successful.”
It’s clear that Huber has found that confidence in 2019. She scored three goals in two games during the TD Bank Classic in Burlington, Vermont, this past weekend. The offensive outburst garnered her the conference’s Offensive Player of the Week award.
As a senior, Huber has taken a certain amount of accountability when it comes to leadership. She says she lets her attitude dictate leadership and feels her attitude rubs off on her teammates.
“I always try to make my presence clear by having the best attitude I can every day and I work my hardest every day when I step out onto the field. Just encouraging and encouraging other girls as well and making sure we’re all on the right path mentally. Staying strong through our lows and the practices and even our highs just maintaining that level of mental stability,” she said. “I think I bring a lot to that because of my attitude and the places and the past that I’ve been through. I have been through a lot of difficult situations so I think I can bring that kind of help and encouragement to other girls when they’re going through hard times.”
That is not to say Huber does not have her own influences on the team. She looks to Haberle as a leader and a player that compliments her playing style quite well. “She has a really big impact on my play because she is such a great player and she can make those awesome supporting balls as well as her work ethic and attitude,” she said. “That spreads throughout the field and she is really good at the through balls and finishing and I work really well with her off of that.”
While Mariah Haberle and Elyse Huber may not have arrived on North Dakota State’s campus at the same time, both their paths cross in their senior seasons. Now, they’ll look to push the Bison to their first Summit League tournament title since 2010.