Sunday, October 29, 2006

Good News: Overcoming Obstacles At Home and Abroad

Thanks to the VCU official sports site:

One may think leaving their home country and traveling almost four thousand mileofficial s across the Atlantic Ocean may be difficult. That part of senior Solveig Haaland’s (Bergen, Norway/Mosjoen Viederegaende) journey to VCU has been one of the easier parts of her transition.

Haaland has been playing soccer since she was old enough to kick a ball around and has a passion and love for the world’s most popular sport. The senior defender for the Rams’ women’s soccer squad had been playing for several years with the Norweigen Youth National team when she learned about the oppourtunity of a scholarship at a school in the United States.

“I knew that this could be a great opportunity for me,” Haaland said. “I wanted to take advantage of every chance I got and so I contacted some people that I knew through the national team to see what exactly I could do.”

What followed was a rollercoaster of events that not many people could have made it through. Haaland came in contact with a university in Florida and received an offer to play, so the senior defender decided to take advantage of her opportunity. However, Haaland’s eagerness to play at a university in the United States had to be held off after complications with the paper work and the university fell through and her plans had to change quickly.

“I was very disappointed about the situation,” said Haaland, “I knew I couldn’t just sit around and be upset, so I decided to keep pursuing all my opportunities.”

Solveig decided to stay in Norway and take classes, while remaining on the Norweigen Youth National team roster and continuing to develop her soccer skills. She decided to take her chances the following year and try to come to the United States again.

Her plans finally came the spring of 2001 as Solveig met Rams’ co-head coach Denise Schilte-Brown and was given a second chance at a golden opportunity to further education and improve her soccer skills.

“Denise and the coaching staff welcomed me with open arms,” Haaland said. “They were all extremely nice and they made it very easy to relax and feel comfortable in a new environment.”
Haaland made an immediate impact on the Black and Gold as she saw action in all 20 games for the Rams during her freshman season in Richmond. She got the starting nod in three contests as she netted four goals and three assists on the season and became a steadying influence to the back line for VCU.

She started 14 games during her sophomore season recording a goal and an assist for the Black and Gold. The pinnacle of her career came during her junior season when she started all 22 games for the Rams while helping the defense to allow just 23 goals all season. She also assisted in guiding VCU to its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament and first-ever CAA Championship.

“The experiences that I’ve had here are irreplaceable,” Haaland said. “I love my teammates and the coaching staff and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Her rollercoaster ride went back down the hill last season as she suffered a knee injury that proved to be season-ending after just playing two games in 2005.

“I was disappointed about my injury, but when I found out about the red-shirting possibility I focused all my energy on getting my health back and getting back on the field with my teammates,” said Haaland.

After hours of dedicated rehabilition and training throughout the summer, she came back for her fifth year ready to guide the Rams to a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Rams had won three straight and had an overall record of 5-2-2 as Haaland and her teammates prepared to start their CAA portion of the regular season schedule with an away game at UNC Wilmington on September 22.

A quick cut in the second half of the 1-0 win over the Seahawks turned into a devastating turn of events as Haaland suffered an injury yet again.

“I told Chris [Brown] right away that I would not play again this season. I just felt right away that it was a bad injury,” Haaland said. “After a while the knee wasn’t bothering as much and I thought that I might be able to fight through the injury, but after the flight to Georgia State, I woke up and my knee was swollen.”

Haaland’s gut feeling was right. She had torn her ACL and torn her meniscus. Her VCU soccer career was over.

“I was devastated,” said Haaland. “I decided that I would not be able to help the team by just being unhappy all the time and I realized I could help the younger centerbacks like Myriam [Bouchard] and Karin [Tersteeg].”

Solveig has proven to be essential influence to the youthful Rams’ defense as they have held their past 11 opponents to an average of just eight shots a game and held opponents to a 0.63 goals against average over that 11-game span.

Not only has Haaland been a star on the pitch, she’s excelled at a high level in the classroom as well. The senior carries a 3.8 cumulative grade point average in one of the toughest undergraduate programs at VCU, Fine Arts. The VCU Fine Arts program was ranked as the #1 public university school of arts and design in the country by U.S. News & World Report (2005).

Maybe we can all take a note from Solveig’s story as she faced disappointments and obstacles over and over again. But Haaland has taken them head on and made the most every opportunity given to her. Instead of pulling down the team, she’s decided to do everything she can to help her team. Now if only some of today’s professional athletes would do the same.


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