By Taylor Mueller, Sports Information Assistant
It’s hard to miss the glowing smile on her face that lights up the field whenever she’s playing the game she loves. And why not?
She has plenty of room to smile. After all, sophomore Rachel Mussell has had a breakout season this year, complete with a team-leading 13 goals that place her among the conference’s best stikers.
The recent success couldn’t be more impressive for Mussell, who narrowly chose soccer over basketball when she first arrived on campus.
“It wasn’t ultimately up to me,” Mussell said. “I emailed Coach (Lisa) White and Coach (Drew) Olson and said ‘Hey, I’d be interested in playing for either of you guys.’ At first I wanted to play both, but now looking at the schedules, I know that would be crazy impossible. So they ended up deciding between themselves and I ended up playing soccer.
“It’s different than any other game where you play it with your feet,” Mussell explained of her passion for soccer. “I love that it’s a huge team sport – 11 people on the field and everyone has to work together. It’s not just me having to do everything myself.”
Mussell has showed tremendous improvement over the course of just one season. A year ago she finished her freshman year with just two goals. After beginning 2012 as a midfielder, Mussell’s scoring splurge, highlighted by a hat trick in the home opener, convinced White to make Mussell a forward.
“Due to the types of players we graduated last year and the positions they played in, she has moved into a striking role which provides her more opportunities to finish than at outside mid,” head coach Lisa White said.
Mussell shared similar insight regarding the significant amount of success that she experienced this season.
“Last year we had a lot of seniors that put in a lot of goals for us,” Mussell said. “It wasn’t really a role that our team needed, so I think I just filled whatever role I could last year. This year it just started and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Our team would build it up and I’d just be there to finish. All the sudden I just had a lot of goals. I guess it’s just a role that needed to be filled and I found a way to do it.”
Mussell spent a significant amount of time in the offseason preparing for the upcoming season and sharpening her skills. Explosiveness and attacking moves were among the top priorities that she set out to improve.
“I spent a lot of time with the ball at my feet, bouncing off walls, dribbling around cones and playing with my brother,” Mussell said. “I spent a lot of time in the weight room.”
White acknowledged the time and effort that Mussell put in during the off season to become a better player.
“I know that she among others on our team diligently follow the summer workout programs that we create for them. She and her teammates have really committed to caring for each other and building a family culture.”
Mussell humbly points out that the success that comes with being a standout soccer player is not in her own doing alone.
“I play soccer because God gave me the ability to play,” Mussell said. “My first thought is all of this glory goes to God. When I’m playing, I ask God to help me be cool, calm and collected, to play up to my ability, to be composed and at peace and to have fun. That’s the most important part.”
The characteristics that Mussell strives to display when she is playing the game she loves are not hard to miss. On and off the field, Mussell’s attitude is what sets her apart.
“Rachel is a humble and determined soul,” White said. “Her team and their efforts have allowed her to accomplish what she has this season. She has the unique ability to remain composed in high pressure situations and executes very well in those environments. She is a product of her family, our family, and her faith.”
Mussell’s passion on the soccer field carries over into her life outside of athletics as well.
While soccer was always a chief priority on her list, academics were what originally drew her to Concordia.
“I decided to come to Concordia first for my education,” said Mussell who has ambitions of becoming a high school physics or chemistry teacher.
When she is not tearing down the soccer field looking for a scoring opportunity or hitting the books in the classroom, Mussell enjoys curling up with a good book, watching movies with her roommate, staying active and participating in various sporting activities.
Mussell enjoys her life off the playing field just as much as the game itself. But with her recent success has come more attention, but Mussell takes it in stride.
“Something I learned in high school is that when you perform well on the athletic field, there tends to be more of a spotlight on you,” Mussell said. “I have God to help me be the best person I can be, to shine his light through me. I don’t feel the pressure because I know he’s given me the abilities.”
Mussell and the Bulldogs hope to make a run in the GPAC Championships, which begin Tuesday when Concordia travels to Doane for a 5 p.m. game.