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Touted recruit Steinlage making smooth transition to college soccer

September 15, 2010

The jump from high school soccer to the Big Ten can be a difficult adjustment. Factor in the talent to be able to start and there can be a lot of pressure.

Freshman midfielder Annie Steinlage is making it look easy for the MSU women’s soccer team.

“We’ve been extremely pleased,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said of Steinlage’s play this season. “She’s come into the preseason fit with a great attitude. We knew when we committed her and then signed her that we had one of our best recruits ever.

“We expected her to make an impact, but you never know as a freshman. And so far, she’s exceeded our expectations.”

Steinlage was a two-time Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and 2010’s Miss Soccer, which is awarded to the best female player in Michigan. But she is not to be confused with her brother, MSU men’s soccer senior goalkeeper Avery Steinlage, who she joked almost prevented her from coming to MSU.

“It sounds weird, but he was kind of a negative factor. You know, not bad, but I kind of wanted to do my own thing,” Steinlage said.

“I didn’t want to follow in his footsteps necessarily, but I was so comfortable here and everyone in my family — except for my dad — went here. There were too many things that I couldn’t say no to coming here.”

The Grand Haven, Mich. native, however, admitted having her big brother around to help her has been a positive experience so far.

“I’ve kind of been able to look up to him more,” she said. “The way that he plays, he takes it seriously. And sometimes he’ll talk to me to cool me down, so it’s nice to have him as someone to relate to.”

Steinlage came into college with 94 career goals in high school, including 29 as a senior where she lead Spring Lake High School to a 19-2 record.

This season — Steinlage’s first at MSU — she has broken into the starting lineup for the Spartans, but in 10 shots, she has been unable to net a goal.

Saxton said he expects that to change.

“What I really think you’ll see, even still this season, is that now that she understands her teammates and what they’re trying to do, she’ll put points on the board,” he said. “She does shoot the ball really well — she just doesn’t get many opportunities. You’ll see her get numbers.”

On top of the plethora of challenges she already has, Steinlage also has switched positions from being a forward in high school to being at the center of the Spartans’ formation as a midfielder.

Senior defender and co-captain Courtney Shegos said Steinlage has done great with the switch, and that watching her play has been remarkable.

“(Playing midfielder) is definitely different,” Shegos said. “You’re more of a contributor by playing the ball and trying to distribute to other girls.

“She really does well handling it under pressure, and we really feel she can get the job done. And she’s done great.”

With the help of her coaches, the transition has been smooth and has allowed her to play more physical and fight for more balls.

“As we evaluated her over her career, we saw her in center defense or midfield, and we knew her home was in the center of the park. And, she can really control play from there,” Saxton said.

Steinlage certainly has found a home in the midfield — she has tallied two assists, second on the team in the young season, and has the third-most recorded shot attempts.

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“At first it was different, but I was open minded because I wanted to get on the field,” she said.

“It’s fun — I like it. It’s fun to try to get into an attack and learn what my role is on the team.

“Everything I’ve learned has been from the coaches Tom (Saxton), Tammy (Farnum) and Stacy (Heller) and from the players I play with.”

Shegos, an experienced senior and leader of the team, said that as Steinlage tallies more years and experience, she predicts her to maintain the same qualities.

“She’s already strong and her skills are above and beyond,” Shegos said.

“I think she can be a leader, definitely, in the middle of the field and continue to grow as her communications and distributing ability (improve). She’s going to be an elite player for this team.”


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