Every program has one or two players who set the bar high for the program and stand out in history.
In the case of the MSU women’s soccer team, that program-changing player is Laura Heyboer.
Heyboer graduated last season as the career leader in points (139), goals (57), assists (25) and game-winning goals (19).
The star of head coach Tom Saxton’s greatest recruiting class now is working as a volunteer assistant coach with the Miami (Fla.) women’s soccer program, but said she still talks to teammates and enjoys returning to her college town the few times she gets to come back.
“I love everything about East Lansing,” Heyboer said. “Some of my best friends are still on the team. They mean the world to me.”
After college, she was drafted by Sky Blue FC in the 2012 Women’s Professional Soccer, or WPS, Draft. When that league folded, she signed with the Western New York Flash of the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite and helped lead them to the inaugural title.
She said the tenor in the pros is very different to that of the college game because of higher expectations and tougher competition.
“I won a championship with the Western New York Flash,” she said. “It’s very professional with the professional atmosphere. If you didn’t do well, you’d hear about it.”
Saxton said the way she played and prepared for every game helped the rest of the team feed off of her.
“She was a total professional,” Saxton said. “She set the tone in training for us every day. She wasn’t like, ‘I’m going to kick the ball over top and run and go score.’ She was a player. She built up and connected, and that helped mold the style that we still try to play with.”
In 2009, Heyboer suffered a gruesome knee injury that Saxton said affected the way she played for the rest of her collegiate career.
“She lost her separation,” he said. “She still was a three-time All-American and scored some huge goals for us. The last two years of her career was just maybe a hair less explosive because of the broken leg. I think she’ll eventually get her burst back.”
Still, Heyboer left her mark on the program and helped mold forward Olivia Stander into the scoring threat she turned out to be.
“I got the privilege of playing with her for two years,” Stander said. “She was a great player, and I really enjoyed the time I got to play with her.”
Stander added she and Heyboer learned how to play off of each other efficiently and how to work together up top.
Heyboer said although the season for the Spartans didn’t go as well as they had hoped, the future for the program still is bright.
“Keep your heads up because sometimes things don’t go your way,” she said. “Sometimes you just get unlucky. That’s the game, that’s soccer. MSU soccer will always be a team to reckon with.”