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Badger senior Hovden lands D1 soccer scholarship

March 16, 2011 | 09:05 AM
First Badger soccer. Then club soccer. Now Division 1 college ball.

Last month, Badger senior Justine Hovden, who spent her freshman and sophomore seasons playing for the Badger girls soccer squad, signed a letter of intent to play college soccer in the fall at Division 1 Baylor in Waco, Texas.

Hovden spent her junior year playing club soccer and will continue it this spring.

Coming from an athletic family, Hovden even played on a boys club soccer program growing up. She hopes to continue soccer after her collegiate career.

An ambitious young woman with a bright future, Hovden sat down with the Regional News recently to discuss her passion for the game and her beginnings in the sport.

RN: First off, Justine, when will you start playing for Baylor?

JH: I will most likely start playing for Baylor beginning in August. However, I may have the option to go down to Texas earlier in the summer. It will depend on how our club team does in future tournaments and how late into the season our club team is able to play.

RN: Your last season for Badger was in 2009, and you led the team with 30 goals. What are some of your fondest memories about playing at Badger?

JH: Yes, my last season with Badger was a very memorable year. We made it the farthest Badger girls soccer has made it in history that year, making it to the sectional final game. We were conference and regional champions that year which was a big accomplishment. Although we lost the last playoff game by a significant amount, I will never forget the game we won to get us to that point. It was against Racine Case, and we went in as major underdogs. Everyone expected us to lose, and we pretty often heard, "Who's Badger?" as we waited to play Case. We were determined to win that game and prove everybody wrong. Our goalie, Melissa Toledo, came up huge in that match with some amazing saves, and I was able to get my job done as a forward, scoring two goals. When the game ended, I was near the opposing team's goal, and I remember sprinting across the field to our goal to celebrate with Melissa.

RN: How has your club soccer experience been? How was that different from playing with Badger, and how did that ultimately help you in signing with a Division 1 team?

JH: I decided to play club soccer my junior year, and I will do so again this season as a senior. It was a very hard decision to make since it required me to stop playing soccer for Badger, but it was a decision I had to make to play soccer at the next level. Playing club was a huge adjustment at first, especially since I started playing club pretty late in my career. However, playing club soccer for the Lakers on a boys team growing up made the transition a little easier. Still, the level of soccer at FC (club) is much different than I was used to. It's a lot faster, and the level of competition is much higher. It has really helped me grow as a player and take a big step forward in my soccer career. I've enjoyed playing for FC a lot, and I am really thankful for the opportunities it has given me. Playing for FC is how I was recruited to Baylor.

RN: How and when did you end up signing with Baylor? How long did they pursue you, and how excited are you to play Division 1 soccer?

I verbally committed to Baylor very early on, in January of my junior year, after playing at Baylor's winter clinic. I officially signed with Baylor on February 2, 2011. For me, the recruiting process at Baylor went very fast because once I had visited the school, met the soccer staff and stayed with the team, I knew it was the school that I hoped to attend. Once they made an offer, it was pretty much decided that Baylor was where I wanted to go. I am so excited to have the opportunity to play at Baylor and can't wait for the season to start. It really is a dream come true to be able to play for a Division 1 school, especially in a conference as competitive as the Big 12.

RN: What other schools did you consider playing for?

JH: I was talking with a few other schools including the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wyoming, but for me the main decision was between West Point and Baylor. I visited West Point and Baylor within a week of one another, and after being at both schools I just felt that Baylor was the right fit for me. I didn't really wait and see what other schools I could look at, because I knew that I loved Baylor, so I decided to commit to the offer I had there.

RN: What position will you play at Baylor? Why did you choose them over other schools?

JH: I will most likely be playing an attacking position at Baylor as either a forward or a midfielder, but I will be more than happy to play whatever position they put me in. I chose Baylor over other schools because of the atmosphere and the complete package it has to offer.

RN: How old were you when you started playing soccer? Why soccer? What about it made you stick with it?

JH: I started playing soccer when I was 4, but I pretty much grew up kicking a ball around because my older siblings played and my dad grew up playing the game. For many years, I played on a co-ed Lakers team that was made up mostly of boys, and I played three-on-three with a boys team for many summers. Soccer stuck with me because of the challenge it presents each time you step on the field. Soccer is something that you can never stop working at, which is what I love about it.

You can't get bored with it because every game is different, and there's always somebody with strengths where you are weak, so you are constantly pushing yourself to be better.

RN: Do you come from an athletic family?

JH: I do come from an athletic family, and sports have been encouraged as part of my life from day one. Our parents let all of us kids pick the sports we wanted to play, but being active has always been encouraged. My dad grew up in Norway, and he was an incredible rower and cross-country skier, and he also had a passion for playing soccer. My mom grew up playing volleyball and basketball in school and became a runner later on. She runs many miles every day and has also run a half marathon. My older sister Jill played soccer all four years at Badger High School, where she holds the record for most goals in a single season, and my older brother Kai runs cross-country at Winona State University.

RN: Who has been your biggest inspiration when it comes to playing soccer?

JH: Both of my parents have been a huge inspiration for me. They've always led by example, showing me to be active in sports by being active and athletic themselves.

Not only are they always there to cheer me on during my games, but they have also shown me what it means to push yourself.

They've always taught me to dig in deep when things get tough and push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to become better. They are amazing role models and a huge inspiration for me.

RN: What is your absolute favorite thing about playing soccer?

JH: I have a lot of favorite things about playing soccer. Beating people one on one, stripping people of the ball when they are trying to score, and obviously scoring goals, but my favorite thing about soccer, again, is the challenge. When you really struggle to figure something out, and then you finally break through and get it right, the feeling is amazing. When you are so tired that all you want to do is stop running, but you make a run anyway, the reward of pushing through that mental wall is worth it.

RN: What do you want to major in at Baylor?

JH: I'm not positive what I would like to major in yet, but I definitely have some ideas. Right now, I'm thinking about either going into the medical field or studying to become a social worker for adoptions.

RN: In five years, what would be your dream job?

JH: My dream job would be to keep playing soccer and to pursue soccer at the highest level.

But, away from the soccer field, I am leaning toward becoming a social worker and helping children and families through the adoption process. However, I am not decided for sure, and I will see what direction my studies at Baylor take me.

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