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    A Dodgeball Tournament Giving Hope (and Fun!)

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    By Katie Landgrebe - Northwestern Women's Soccer

    Katie Landgrebe is a sophomore on the Northwestern women's soccer team and the journalism major will give fans an inside look into the program with her blogs. The Northwestern women's soccer team is constantly giving back to the community and Katie's second entry details a great service event put on by the seniors from the 2012 women's soccer team.

    PHOTOS: 2013 Charity Dodgeball Tournament

    Colorful outfits, the sound of competition-crazed players, and balls whizzing through the air could only mean one thing: a dodgeball tournament, and more importantly, one put on by the women's soccer team. On a hot May day, more than 100 people packed into Patten Gym to participate in a tournament organized, run and inspired by our senior class. I can't begin to say how much Jess Rubin, Meredith Finsand and Bri Westlund have meant to me as teammates in the past two years, but in the past few weeks I've seen another, even better side of them. 
    They built this tournament from the ground up, and put a great cause at the center of it. The Lurie Children's Hospital is a place near and dear to NU women's soccer because of the incredible care they have given to our friend Hallie Munro, so it was only natural that the proceeds of this tournament would benefit their organization. With each team paying an entrance fee and many local businesses donating food for players, our seniors, and team, were able to raise $3,000 for a place that we know does good work for children with unimaginable circumstances; and all while having a great time!
    Observing the three dodgeball courts that lined Patten Gym was truly a sight to see, and many of us stuck around to watch and enjoy the fun atmosphere long after our refereeing shifts ended. Teams, many of which consisted of other NU student-athletes, sprinted to lines, performed trick plays and generally made the most of the chance to participate in a game outside of our normal practice schedules. Working alongside the seniors that had made all of this happen was an honor, and I couldn't help but smile at the thought of that money going to a place where daily, kids can have hope of a second chance because of the world-class care they receive.
    Something else that stuck with me was from an email Coach Moynihan sent to our team after some of us volunteered at Nettelhorst Elementary playing soccer and telling students about our experience as NU student-athletes. He pointed out that we were showing kids another avenue, one where you can excel at a sport and also love to do creative writing or use a talent you have to achieve something else, like being the first in your family to attend college. In a way, we were doing the same with the dodgeball tournament. Showing outsiders and ourselves that college athletes aren't just performers on the field and in the classroom, but also conscientious members of the community. In a packed gym filled with the sounds of our friends simply having a good time, our team, with the help of our senior class, learned that fun and service can collide in incredible ways.
    Coach Neely captured some great moments from the dodgeball tournament so make sure you check out the photo gallery. A big thanks to everyone who participated and helped to make the day memorable!

    Thoughts from Katie: Spring Lessons

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    By Katie Landgrebe - Northwestern Women's Soccer

    Katie Landgrebe is a sophomore on the Northwestern women's soccer team and the journalism major will give fans an inside look into the program with her blogs. Katie's first entry takes a look back at the Wildcats' spring soccer season that just wrapped up in early May.

    The end of spring season is always a little bittersweet. We're closing the book on some fun contests with regional rivals but also stepping into our offseason preparation for our main Big Ten season in the fall. I personally love those summer months, preparing my body to tackle preseason, setting goals for what we will accomplish in the fall and anticipating the memories we will make as we take the field on Chicago Friday nights. That said, spring season is a great time to put to work all of the things we focus on in the winter offseason and is always a time of growth for our team. This spring season was no exception.

    Our first weekend back from spring break we played two games against University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Valparaiso and brought home a win and a tie. It was an uncharacteristically warm Saturday in April and playing on Lakeside Field for the first time in six months was awesome. (And also reminded us why we work so hard on fitness in the fall; that 120x76 yard field can really take it out of you.) Against Loyola we played some of the best possession soccer that I've ever seen out of our team and picked up a tie. In a matchup with our Big Ten rival Wisconsin, we brought home a 1-0 win and generated many promising attacks, which has been the focus of much of our training in the past few months.

    The wins and ties this spring, understandably, make up many of the highlights of the past month. Despite that, I think that we collected some of our best learning in the losses we've had, displaying one of the reasons I believe spring season is so integral to collegiate programs: that because these games don't matter for conference wins and losses, we can try new things and work on our weaknesses in a highly competitive game environment without too much pressure. Our team did just that, learning against Marquette that our team organization against a great possession team needs to be better. We collected one of our hardest lessons late in the spring season against DePaul when we were out-worked and didn't compete with a full team effort.  

    The DePaul loss was a hard one to stomach and is still a fresh wound for many of us, but I think it presents one of the greatest opportunities for growth that our team has ever received. After the game we talked about how disappointing it is to have great trainings and see real progress, then not have it translate in a game situation. We talked about perseverance and focus, communication and attitude. Every team, at every level, works to put together a complete performance, harmonizing all of the technical and mental aspects of the game, each time they step on the field. Our team talked about how we need to expect that out of ourselves every single time we take the field too, that anything less is not an acceptable way to represent the Northwestern name or ourselves. Again, a bittersweet way to end the spring, but one that presents hope for even more growth in the months to come and holds a quiet current of expectation for how it will all come together in the fall.

    For me, a lot of things came together this spring season soccer-wise, and it ended up being one of the periods when I've most enjoyed playing at Northwestern. I learned about how important it is to identify areas of weakness in your play and then what it looks like to put in time and thought that is focused on combating those problems. I've begun to have this thought process that revolves around rejecting doing things half-heartedly and focuses on committing to things fully and doing them out of passion and love. My relationship with soccer has definitely not always been this way, and this spring was one of the first times in college that I have tackled things on the soccer field out of a genuine desire to fulfill what I've begun to see as a very worthy commitment in my life. Not that I've viewed soccer as some sort of side-job in the past year, but I've become much more aware that this is an opportunity I don't want to see pass by without knowing that I did all I could to get better at soccer, serve my teammates and have fun playing. Like most things, this way of thinking is a work in progress, imperfect and not always acted out, but it's been pretty transformative in how I approach playing soccer (and living life!).