“Coach, I’m sorry,” said women’s soccer recruit Julia Glaser to head women’s soccer coach Kristi Kiely. “But you’re going to have to put up with me for two years.”

That day in April 2018 is one that both Glaser and Kiely remember. After a lengthy recruitment process and multiple school visits, Glaser had just verbally committed to play for the Sea Lions over FaceTime.

“When she called to tell me, I was preparing myself for a tough conversation, but instead she FaceTimes me with that response. What other player tells a coach that way?” laughed Kiely, who has always appreciated Glaser’s sense of fun and goofiness.

The international women’s soccer player had already completed two years at an NCAA Division I program with the Fresno State Bulldogs but was interested in transferring. Her older brother and former men’s soccer player, Patrice Glaser, suggested she take a look at PLNU.

“I knew she was looking into UCSD as well as us,” said Kiely. “And I remember thinking, OK, most coaches would focus on convincing the athlete to come to their program, but I wanted to make sure she knew she would be valued as more than an athlete if she came here.”

“Most coaches would focus on convincing the athlete to come to their program, but I wanted to make sure she knew she would be valued as more than an athlete if she came here.

Still in her first year as coach, Kiely knew her long-term vision for the program would require players like Glaser, players with diversity of skill and style, who also understand the value that comes with playing a sport at PLNU. Ultimately, it was this emphasis on being valued that tipped the scales in favor of the Sea Lions during Glaser’s recruitment.

“I really wanted to play DI soccer,” said Glaser. “I didn’t want to give that up, but when I talked to Kristi, I really liked her views on soccer … I knew that even if I played bad[ly], I would be cared for here. At a big school, it’s hard for them to really care about you.”

Born and raised in Germany, Glaser spent most of her younger years learning to play soccer in Europe, a style of play that emphasizes technical ability over physical strength. Like many international players, Glaser had to learn a new style of soccer when she was recruited to the U.S.

“Sometimes I miss the familiar culture and the style of soccer, but I can improve a lot from the American way of playing soccer,” said Glaser, who appreciates the focus on weightlifting in PLNU’s program.

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Glaser became the first Division I transfer to join the women’s soccer program since its move to NCAA Division II. She began setting records during what would be one of the most storied seasons in the history of the program, including scoring a conference-best 19 goals and earning multiple conference awards. And while there were plenty of individual moments she relished, her favorite was one that the entire team shared.

“When we won playoffs,” said Glaser. “The best moment was when we won playoffs. It was really nice to break a record and do something no one else had ever done.”

In addition to their historic first round NCAA DII playoff win, the Sea Lions also brought home the PacWest championship for the third time in five years. Naturally, they also received the lion’s share of PacWest accolades, including PacWest Coach of the Year.

“I thought all the players did a tremendous job doing what we asked of them this year,” said Kiely. “She [Glaser], in particular, is a very cerebral player, and it’s been fun to see her get better at thinking and strategy during a game.”

The Sea Lions ended the season 16-2-1, going undefeated in conference play. Their second loss came after a grueling 90 minutes of play against a familiar rival: UC San Diego. But Glaser hasn’t once questioned her decision to join the Sea Lions all those months ago. Instead, she has her sights set on next year.

“I feel like I just got here, and I’m really excited,” said Glaser. “We made so much progress, and now we know each other and the coach knows us; and we can make even more progress and build on what we accomplished.”

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Kendall Patton is a 2016 graduate of PLNU and a former student-athlete. She graduated with a degree in journalism and is a freelance writer for the Viewpoint.