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Friday, May 8, 2020

Highlands Alum Finding "Spark" for NKU Women's Soccer Team

Deckert Joining Meyer at NKU in Fall

NKU Athletics. Northern Kentucky University Norse freshman Lindsey Meyer boots the ball toward the middle in a game this past fall against Cleveland State. The 2019 Highlands alum scored three goals and had two assists after earning a starting role at forward halfway through the season. 

To begin her freshman season, Lindsey Meyer will tell you she did not play up to her standards.

But once the 2019 Highlands alum learned the ropes of the NCAA Division I level for the Northern Kentucky University Norse women's soccer team, Meyer found her way into the starting line-up at forward. Meyer finished her freshman season with three goals and two assists for eight points.

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"All incoming freshmen really take different times to adjust. Some are able to come right in and make an impact immediately. For some, it takes just a little more time. For others, it might take a full year," said Bob Sheehan, NKU veteran head coach. "Lindsey has a tremendous amount of skill and talent. She has a wonderful work ethic. She felt like she needed to find her spark. I think she finally found it. She felt like she wasn't playing at her level early on. She is out of the house for the first time even though she's only 10 minutes away. You're in a new environment with new coaches, new players. Sometimes, it just take a little time. We look for bigger and bigger things from Lindsey moving forward."

Sheehan credited a senior forward/midfielder for NKU last year in Shawna Zaken for helping Meyer. Both stand at 5-feet-4-inches.

"Shawna had a similar experience," Sheehan said. "She was adjusting to the physicality of the college game and it took her about midway through her freshman year. Shawna just clicked and Shawna ended up being on the all-Horizon League Tournament team and ended up being a two-time All-Horizon League First Team player and ultimately the all-Horizon League Offensive Player of the Year in her senior year, which was this past fall. They were able to communicate with one another. I think Shawna was just really terrific at continuing to encourage Lindsey."

The Norse finished 9-9 this past fall including 5-4 in Horizon League play. NKU won its last three games of the regular season before beating Wright State, 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the league tournament before falling 1-0 to second-seeded Illinois-Chicago in the semifinals in Milwaukee (Wisconsin).

But NKU has had a lot of success even transitioning to NCAA Division I under Sheehan's guidance. Sheehan will enter his 24th season as head coach of the Norse this fall.
The Norse won the Horizon League Tournament in 2016. NKU then lost 3-0 to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Meyer hopes to help the Norse return to the NCAA Tournament.

"I have always been one of the smallest players on the field, but my speed and foot skills is what set me apart from others throughout all of high school," Meyer said. "College level play is much more aggressive so the biggest area I have been focusing on during this off-season to sharpen my play has been my strength." 

Meyer is majoring in Neuroscience. She has had to make her share of adjustments to non-traditional instruction.

"I know this pandemic has been a huge challenge for all athletes, and personally it has really been a struggle not being able to train with my team, but I know that everyone is in the same boat so I am just putting in as much work as I can on my own to prepare myself for next fall," Meyer said. "Keeping in touch with my team over zoom calls and group chats has also been a great way to stay motivated."

Sheehan and staff will welcome in another Highlands alum this fall in defender Lauren Deckert. Deckert helped the Bluebirds to a second straight state runner-up finish in 2019.

"Obviously student-athletes who come out of successful programs know how to win," Sheehan said. "They're generally high-character kids. They understand the value of putting the work in. They're obviously gifted and talented as well. I think there's a maturity that comes with players who win championships. Lauren has been a part of a winning culture. Lauren is another one that we're looking forward to getting started with whenever that might be."

Deckert said she knows a number of the players who will be on the team next season including Meyer. Deckert is one of nine incoming freshmen. The Norse will have just four seniors this fall.

Deckert scored seven goals and had five assists for 19 points in helping the Bluebirds to a 20-4-5 record last year mainly playing defender. She stepped in at goalkeeper during penalty kicks in state tournament wins at West Jessamine and against Lexington Catholic in the state quarterfinals.

"I really liked how Coach Sheehan was coaching going to see a couple of their games," Deckert said. "He knows how to talk to his girls without making it too harsh. I think the fact that it's close to home made it easy for me."

Sheehan said the Norse like to change formations up based on individual strengths. He said NKU was young last year with and eight sophomores and seven freshmen, but he feels good about where things are headed.

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