Soccer player motivates younger teammates

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The goalie can be one of the hardest positions of any sport. Veronica "Roni" Rudolph, a senior at Duluth East, manages being the East girls' varsity soccer goalie with ease.

"As a goalie you can never question what you are going to do, you have to just do it," Rudolph said. "Many people ask, 'How are you not afraid?' and all I can say is I have a clear mind and my body just reacts to whatever happens. Being a goalie does come with a lot of pressure but for me, I like that pressure. I like knowing my team depends and counts on me."

Emma Spooner, a junior at East, has been Rudolph's teammate for three years.

"She knows how to direct a team on and off the field," Spooner said. "Last year as a captain she inspired us all to be determined and to never give up. Quite literally, she has all of our backs on the field but also she's just an extremely supportive teammate that lifts the team up when we need a boost of confidence or inspiration."

Rudolph has been playing soccer since kindergarten, starting off with the Congdon recreational team and progressing to the East Select Soccer (ESS) club team, the Gitchi Gummi club team and East Varsity.

"I've played soccer with Roni since Congdon Rec soccer," Abby Bosell, a senior at East and Rudolph's teammate, said. "Being a defender, Roni and I had a close relationship because we both had the same goal, to protect the net. We communicated well and always had good chemistry on the field. Off the field she has always been an incredible friend, so supportive and always there for her friends."

As if the responsibility of being goalie wasn't enough, Rudolph was also chosen to be a captain for the 2014 soccer season.

"Being a captain was a great honor and a big responsibility," Rudolph said. "I had to lead by example on and off the field. I personally felt it was my responsibility to get to know the younger girls and make them feel welcome and comfortable on the team. It was my job to keep a positive and encouraging attitude even when we weren't playing our best."

Steve Polkowski, the girls' soccer coach at East, is Rudolph's coach for both ESS club soccer and high school soccer.

Rudolph "left everything she had on the field every game," Polkowski said of the two-year starter. "Her heart and ability were top-notch but her willingness to include, motivate and incorporate younger teammates into the team is what made her truly special."

Rudolph plays basketball for the Greyhounds in the winter when she's not playing soccer.

"I started playing at the Salvation Army," Rudolph said. "In middle school I played East Hoops Club, as well as on the Woodland school team. I played all four years in high school for East. My competitiveness and drive to do and be the best I can comes from sports, but all these things also help me outside of sports. I also have the same drive to succeed in school, I have kept an almost perfect GPA all throughout the years."

This fall, Rudolph will be playing Division II soccer for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. She also plans to help others improve their game this summer.

"I will be coaching a U9 girls team (for players under age 9) as well as coaching goalies," Rudolph said. She said she plans to attend UMD to major in education and play soccer for the Bulldogs under coaches Greg Cane and Kelly Wheeler. "I am very excited and thankful to be able to continue playing soccer," she said.

Solveig Rennan is a junior at East High School and interned for the Budgeteer in 2014. If you have an idea for a teen athlete profile, email budgeteer@duluthbudgeteer.com.