College soccer a special experience for Somerset native Katie Kippes
Katie Kippes played the final games of her college soccer career a week ago.
While the Somerset High School graduate thoroughly enjoyed her college athletic experience, she is already looking forward to the next stage of her life.
Kippes is in her senior year at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D. She plans to graduate this spring. She will then begin work toward her master’s degree next fall as she continues toward her goal of becoming a speech pathologist.
Kippes is the first product of the Somerset High School girls soccer program to play at the collegiate level. At first, she wasn’t sure she had the ability to play in college, especially in the NCAA Division II Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Kippes said it was only after encouragement from Somerset coach Erin (Wilson) Gehring that she contacted the college coaches.
Gehring was a first-year coach when Kippes was a senior. Gehring said having a player of Kippes’ skill made for a much easier transition to coaching.
“Katie always carried herself as a leader and a competitor. She is a very skilled player that stood out on our team and in our conference throughout her entire high school career,” Gehring said. “Katie is very driven and put a lot of extra effort into her soccer career that definitely paid off for her.”
Kippes made the college team as a walk-on freshman and made a scholarship player following her freshman season.
“The first year definitely was an awakening,” Kippes said. “It was much harder than I ever expected.”
During her sophomore season, Kippes became a starting defender for the Wolves. Near the end of her sophomore season, Kippes suffered a foot injury. It would cloud the rest of her career.
She missed all of her off-season training and a large part of her junior season before the problem was solved. The foot problems put her behind. She was moved to an outside midfield position this season, but she missed three weeks at the start of the season with another foot injury.
Kippes’ career came to an end on Sunday when the Wolves tied the University of Mary, 1-1. Northern State ended the season ninth in the NSIC with an 8-8-2 record.
“It was bittersweet,” Kippes said.
The Wolves had improved significantly and had hoped to make the NSIC tournament at the end of the season, but they needed to finish among the top eight teams to qualify.
The game that stands out most from the season to Kippes wasn’t a victory. Minnesota State University-Mankato is ranked second in the nation and was the NSIC champion. Northern State gave the Mavericks an exceptional battle, losing 2-1.
“That shows how much better we’ve gotten,” Kippes said.
There are a number of things that stand out to Kippes from her soccer career. She said the relationships with her teammates and the opportunities from being part of the team stand out. One of the opportunities was a chance to travel with the team to Europe for a four-country soccer tour in her freshman year. They played two games in Europe and watched a professional soccer game in Germany. She said the game opened her eyes to how seriously soccer is taken in Europe.
“It’s like going to a Packers-Vikings game,” she said.
While there is sadness over the end of her soccer career, her academics are the center of her attention.
“I live and breathe special education,” Kippes said.
Kippes will do her student teaching next spring before graduating. She will then head to Minnesota State University-Moorhead, where she will begin work on her master’s degree.
It becomes clear quickly that her passion for special education comes from the heart. Her younger sister, Phoebe, was born with Down Syndrome.
“That was a big influence on my decision,” Kippes said.
Her passion for her major helped Kippes to see a great deal of success academically. In August, Kippes was named as one of 57 Northern State athletes to receive the Division II Athletics Directors Association (D2ADA) Academic Achievement Award. The Academic Achievement Award recognizes the academic accomplishments of student-athletes at the Division II level.
Going to school six hours away from home might have been difficult at first, but Kippes said she made the right decision.
“I’m extremely happy I chose to come here. There are so many things I took from the experience,” she said.