Nielsen leads Lewis to home playoff game

Senior goalkeeper Bekah Nielsen has been playing soccer as long as she can remember, starting with going to her older brother’s games as a toddler.“There are toddler photos of me running around the field with this huge soccer ball with much bigger kids. My parents realized then I was pretty athletic for my age and got me involved in running and soccer and softball.” 

Even though she was a multi-sport athlete throughout her life, she found soccer as the clear choice due to the camaraderie she felt with her teammates. “I played with the most amazing group of friends and we stayed together all of those years.” While Nielsen always enjoyed playing soccer and everything surrounding it, she wasn’t sure after graduating from Heartland Community College that she was going to continue to play. That was until she spoke to coach Chris Koenig, who proceeded to invite her to a tryout for Lewis. “I thought I did terrible and I thought there was no way that he would want me. But he offered a spot and I took some time and realized that Lewis was the best fit for me.”

The road to Lewis wasn’t unexpected for Nielsen yet it proved to be rewarding. “I have no doubt if it weren’t for Coach Chris [Koenig], I wouldn’t be at Lewis, and for that, I am eternally grateful.” 

Entering her first year in 2022, Nielsen immediately was granted  playing time as starting goalkeeper and immediately made an impact, leading the team to hosting a GLVC conference tournament game. She was  named GLVC defensive player of the week for the week of Oct. 3 and Oct. 24. 

Nielsen embraces the challenge of being a goalie and the difficulties that come with the job. Starting with the mental aspect of the game, Nielsen always starts every game the same way. “After the starting 11 break I always go back to my goal and do my same routine by touching the crossbar then touching the ground and saying some words of affirmation to myself.” This superstition has paid dividends throughout the duration of her career and has led to many successful games the past two years. 

Mentally, Nielsen feels prepared every time she steps onto the pitch, “There is a certain courage and craziness that comes with being a goalkeeper…You are either the hero or the scapegoat.” Watching countless amounts of tape on herself and others has eased the mental aspect of her game and allowed her to play with more confidence. 

While at Lewis, Nielsen has also grown as a person and has learned some key lessons about herself. “I have learned I am a lot stronger than I ever thought.” Throughout the duration of this season, there have been some ups and downs, but Nielsen and the rest of the team stayed strong and leaned on each other to come through with a strong conference showing. “Through conference play we only lost twice and let in seven goals in a span of 13 games. There can always be improvement but I was very pleased with how we turned it around after non-conference play.”

The strong showing in conference play has led to the Flyers hosting the University of Missouri-St. Louis in a playoff GLVC game, when asked about the expectations for the squad going forward, Nielsen responded, “The ultimate goal is to win the GLVC tournament which is very much possible if we put everything we have in the games we play.” The game will be played on the home turf on Nov. 5 at 12 p.m.

Photo Credits: Matthew Carlson

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