Katie Foss wasn’t ready to stop playing competitive soccer when she graduated 21/2 years ago from North Farmington High School.
Her continued commitment to the sport has led to her being an essential part of a national championship team.
The former all-Observer goalkeeper played a major role in the Michigan State University women’s club team winning the title Nov. 19-21 in Phoenix, Ariz.
“I learned a lot of good fundamentals playing for the Michigan Jaguars and North Farmington,” Foss said. “When I got to Michigan State, I knew I didn’t want to be done yet.
“Although I chose the university for its academics and not athletics, I wanted to join the club team. I didn’t realize it was such a competitive environment and organization.
“They won the national championship the year before (2012), and it’s great to be part of the team that is only the second in the history of the club to win it.”
Foss, a junior majoring in computer science, has played three seasons for the club team and has been its starting goalie the last two.
More than half of the 22-member squad is composed of underclassmen, and it took the team a while to develop the right chemistry.
The Spartans, who didn’t have a good regular season by their standard, received an at-large bid and began playing their best soccer at the right time.
“We were underdogs, so it was pretty awesome,” Foss said. “I don’t think any of us really expected to win. We went there with the goal of winning, but we really came together and found the best way to play with each other.
“We peaked at nationals. The season wasn’t anything amazing for our team. Usually, we’re winning most of our games. We tied a couple and lost one. It wasn’t great season for us, but we found the chemistry we needed to win it all.”
Need to persevere
The national tournament schedule itself was a grind as the Spartans had to play six games over three days.
The Arizona climate, with its intense heat and dry atmosphere, made the experience all the more grueling and challenging for the players.
“The sun here in Michigan is nothing like that,” Foss said. “The sun beats down on you. We were trying to warm up and everyone was exhausted.
“By the third or fourth game, we looked to our teammates to find the motivation to keep us going. The most difficult part was looking into the sun and dealing with that.”
And, yet, it was only 70 degrees – a mild temperature and comfortable setting by Michigan standards.
“For us, that was pretty hot,” Foss said. “We played our best game when the sun went down Friday night. I think it was because the weather changed.
“It was more like we’re used to here in Michigan. You’d think that was just average, but it feels like 90 with the sun in Arizona. There’s no wind, so it’s just kind of stagnant.”
Struggle to survive
The second day was probably the toughest, according to Foss. MSU got through the early rounds to defeat Virginia Tech (3-2) in a semifinal match and Colorado State (1-0) in the final. Both were overtime games.
“Just getting over the hump (was the difficult part),” Foss said. “You’ve already played two games and you’re sore; you’re not yet in the championship.
“Every game is a knockout game. You’ve made it this far, but you don’t want to lose. You’re body is telling you you’ve been through enough. It was tough, but we kept it going.”
Wins goalie award
Through it all, Foss managed to have an excellent tournament, allowing just three goals in the six games and winning the Most Outstanding Goalie Award.
“It’s great they have that award,” she said. “At times the goalie gets looked down upon when the other team scores, and the forwards get the glory when a goal is scored.
“The goalies sometimes get overlooked. It’s nice to have an award to recognize what the goalies do back there, too.”
Foss said she had to make quite a few saves, but her teammates also did a good job of getting in front of the ball and stopping runs by opposing attackers.
“I had to deal with some high balls and quite a few corner kicks,” she said. “The defense played a big role in those shutouts, too. They stopped a lot but, when they can’t get in front of it, that’s what I’m there for.”
In a regional semifinal, MSU lost to Illinois on penalty kicks, but the team’s power ranking was strong enough to get an at-large invite and be part of the national tournament field.
“I’m just proud of my team for not giving up,” Foss said. “I don’t think a lot of us knew we were ranked third in group play. Not knowing that played a role.
“We felt we were just as good. So you play with a chip on your shoulder and don’t really think about that too much.
“It’s just a privilege to have the opportunity to go out there and have that experience. It was really cool to be a part of it.”
Foss also thanked her coach at North Farmington, Tim Russell, and the parents of the MSU players who were in attendance for their support.
At the tournament site, the parents shouted ‘Go Green’ from the stands, and the players on the bench responded with ‘Go White,’ according to Foss.
“It was awesome,” she said. “It helped all of us out on the field to have more energy. It was really great having them there and cheering us on.”