As the Concordia University Women’s Soccer team made its storybook run through the GPAC tournament in April, a major life decision loomed for starting midfielder Michaela Twito. Should she stay or should she go? All seniors across the country have had to answer that question after a 2020-21 campaign that did not exhaust any athletic eligibility, as a result of COVID-19.
Fortunately for the 2021 Bulldogs, that teaching career is going to have to wait. The Ames, Iowa, native will be running it back, one more time.
“I realized that I’ll never get to play this sport as competitively as right now,” Twito said. “I have goals and aspirations in my life and going to another level in soccer isn’t in those plans. This is my last chance to play competitive soccer with a team I love and a coach I totally respect. Just considering those things, I was like, ‘Yeah, I think I should come back.’”
At the same time as Twito looks ahead to the fall, she’s currently in the midst of serving as camp director for an intensive nine-week Lutheran Bible camp near her hometown of Ames. This could have been the lead-in to her professional life. A year ago, Twito would not have foreseen herself discussing an upcoming college soccer season in late July of 2021. But everything is fluid in this world we live in. Here is Twito now ready to add to her career games played total of 79.
To be sure, no one would have faulted Twito for riding off into the sunset after helping lead Concordia to a GPAC tournament championship this spring. It was a truly exhilarating sendoff for those who won’t be back, such as goalkeeper Lindsey Carley (also a five-year member of the program), a teammate with Twito from the beginning. Now Twito stands as the last remaining link back to the 2017 conference championship team that went undefeated in GPAC play. The prospect of doing something similar will drive her into a fifth season.
The day prior to Concordia playing Jamestown in the conference final, Twito had made up her mind. Said Twito, “I’m the type of person who likes to be all in for anything that I do. For soccer these last four years, I’ve gone all in for all situations, whether it’s fitness testing or coming early to the locker room to get mentally prepared. With student teaching last year, I felt like I couldn’t take care of my body the way I wanted to. I’m so excited for this fall because I can really focus on the team.”
Twito’s continued presence on campus won’t go unnoticed. She’s known for her outgoing personality that seems to influence her to strike up conversations with literally everyone. It should be no surprise that she was voted homecoming queen last fall. Coach, professor, staff member, jock or geek, you probably know Michaela Twito.
And there’s something about that name. When she first showed up for preseason training in 2017, former head coach Greg Henson pronounced her name as tweet-oh (actually pronounced twight-oh), and it stuck. Despite the mishandling of her last name, Twito has found Concordia to be the right fit for her personality. She so appreciates a place that encourages her to share her faith life. Through the ups and downs that characterize the college years, Twito has grown to be a better person.
“My freshman year it was so tough,” Twito said. “I did not realize that college soccer was going to be that hard, not necessarily physically. Emotionally sometimes it takes a toll on you. You’re playing with people who are older than you and have a lot more experience. You’re thrown into it and you have to figure it out. My freshman year, I didn’t know if I could do it. Personally I went through a lot of struggles. Once sophomore year came, I got reconnected with the Lord and my faith. There were a lot of people who stepped into my world to help me at Concordia. I feel like Concordia was definitely the place I needed to be at.”
The future teacher is a Scholar-Athlete, a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree and a four-time All-GPAC award winner. She’s experienced a lot during a career that has seen her play a central role with the program ever since her arrival. Twito has played for three different head coaches in Henson, Chris Luther and now Thomas Goines. She knows what it takes to be a champion having starred for two different GPAC title teams, including the ’17 side that did the incredible by allowing just one goal for the entirety of the GPAC regular season.
Unique in so many ways, Twito won’t forget April of 2021 when the third-seeded Bulldogs came together to win the GPAC tournament. Concordia persevered through some rocky spring moments that led into the postseason and the night of April 9 when the banner was won. It’s hard to fault Twito for taking a moment to take it all in. She may have even wandered off the field with that championship banner.
Said Twito, “Our team faced some adversity. We had two options. We could either crumble from that adversity or take it on as a challenge and come together. There were some people who really, really stepped up during that time. Some people who hadn’t been getting much playing time stepped into roles, and we realized it wasn’t about one person. It had to be every single one of us giving our best effort to win the championship.”
As late as the GPAC semifinal game (which ended in a tension-filled PK shootout), Twito took the field uncertain as to whether it would be her final time wearing Concordia colors. Depending on how far the Bulldogs can take things this fall, Twito could become the first Bulldog to ever play in 100 games.
Life as a Bulldog has been too good for Twito not to take advantage of one more opportunity. Said Twito, “It’s gone above and beyond my expectations of what I wanted or needed in a college. I’m super grateful, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”