Fairy Tale Story Came Close To Unhappy Ending(Women’s Soccer)

Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

When Cathy Biglari practiced soccer for Northwestern during her first two years, she knew she was on the wrong field.

As she played for NU’s club team on the lakefill, Biglari said she used to watch the varsity team practice on the field over, wishing she could be in their cleats.

So when the club team received an e-mail her sophomore year inviting them to try out for varsity, Biglari signed up immediately.

“It was like a dream come true,” Biglari said.

The varsity team invited her to a practice two weeks later, and Biglari said she knew this was her one shot to play in the Big Ten.

“It was the hardest practice of my life, but I didn’t care,” Biglari said. “I dropped everything else I was involved in just to have a chance at making the team.”

It paid off.

Biglari made the cut and started practicing with the team after the 2004 season. But after the excitement lifted from her fairy tale story, Biglari began to realize the mental adjustments needed to go from playing for a club team to being a varsity athlete.

“It’s a whole new level,” Biglari said. “I had never worked that hard in my life, and it was all up to me – I had to mentally push myself through those first few months.”

Biglari continued to adjust to the varsity team during the 2005 season. Because she was two years older than the freshmen but a rookie on the team, she said she had problems finding her niche off the field; on the field, she became discouraged with her lack of playing time.

“The team knew me as someone who is really encouraging and positive and always puts in 100 percent, but sometimes it’s hard to be encouraging when you feel a little down yourself,” Biglari said.

After seeing no action during the 2005 season, Biglari took a leave of absence from the team and contemplated quitting.

But as she spent the spring as an assistant coach at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, Biglari said she realized she loves the game too much to walk away.

“Every time they went onto the field, I wanted tobe out there with them,” Biglari said. “I knew I would regret it one day if I didn’t come back. I have this opportunity to compete at a higher level, which has always been a dream of mine … and I realized I had to keep going.”

Biglari rejoined the team this season and saw playing time in the season-opener against DePaul and against Morehead State in September. She is on the travel roster when NU (8-8-2, 4-4-1 Big Ten) take on Wisconsin (6-8-3, 3-5-1) Friday.

She said that she has taken a larger role on the team, becoming a leader as one of the team’s four seniors.

“I try to be there for the freshmen in any way I can,” Biglari said.

After the season, Biglari said she plans to return to Walter Payton College Prep to do become certified as a history teacher and to continue coaching the soccer team.

Eric Kuchii, head coach at Walter Payton College Prep, said Biglari’s youth and experience at NU have made her a welcome addition to the coaching staff.

“She is a person the players could relate to on and off the field,” Kuchii said. “As a college soccer player, Cathy brought a lot of intensity to the practices. She was able to show the girls what soccer at the next level is all about.”

Now in the middle of her last season, Biglari said she has been thankful for her opportunity to play for the Cats.

“I love soccer, you know?” Biglari said. “And any way I can get involved with it, I want to.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]