In the hyper-competitive environment of the North Carolina women’s soccer team, it’s commonplace to see players make the jump into pro soccer after decorated college careers.
Crystal Dunn and Kealia Ohai were both first round picks in the 2014 NWSL draft and will look to make a name for themselves on domestic shores.
But some players, like their former Tar Heel teammate and last year’s starting keeper (for the most part) Anna Sieloff, elect to turn to foreign opportunities.
Sieloff recently embarked on a pro career by inking a deal with Frauen Bundesliga side BV Cloppenburg, an idea that sparked to life during her Chapel Hill career.
“The players in my class inspired me to make the jump,” Sieloff told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “Kealia Ohai, Crystal Dunn, and Meg Morris knew early on they all wanted to go pro in the spring semester. They are some of my best friends and I didn’t want to miss out on what they were doing. So figured I would give it a try too. I talked to Anson [Dorrance] about it and he said that I should go for it.”
Coming from a program that has spawned countless pro and national team careers gave Sieloff the platform she needed to make a jump to the pro ranks.
The next question became where she should turn to start. With the fledgling NWSL entering a second season, staying in the United States was a possibility – but one with perhaps limited playing opportunities for a goalkeeper.
“After I decided I wanted to play professionally, Anson and I discussed my options,” she said. “With only nine teams in the NWSL, all the starting goalkeeper positions would be filled by veterans and that it would be a long shot to play. He suggested that I look overseas and find a team where I could get some minutes. He put me in contact with some people in Europe to get the ball rolling.”
Assistant coach Jason Sisneros helped Sieloff along the way, emailing pro coaches across Europe and sending out highlight tapes. It eventually led to the opportunity in Germany, a path not completely unfamiliar to her. At the end of the 2012 season, Tar Heel captain Amber Brooks signed with Bayern Munich, and the email updates that Brooks sent back to the squad gave Sieloff a picture of what to expect when this opportunity came knocking.
The whole experience is something that Sieloff is very excited about: from simply playing as a pro to getting the opportunity to live in Europe amongst a culture of soccer.
“I am looking forward to playing soccer at the next level,” she said. “Whenever you step on to the field, you are going to be playing with national team players from all over the world. The quality at which the game is played is remarkable. Not to mention I am in an environment where the sport of soccer reigns. Everyone in Europe is immersed in the game, which is fun to be a part of.”
Sieloff joined Cloppenburg in the middle of their winter break, with the last game played back on Dec. 8. She spent time with the team in training camp in Turkey, and is trying to learn German as quickly as she can. The second half of the season began over the weekend, with a Sunday matchup against BSV Schwarz-Weiss Rehden.
Some of her goals for this upcoming season are cracking the starting lineup, helping the team maintain its first division status (Cloppenburg was promoted to the 1. Bundesliga last spring) and continued improvement between the posts.
As the next phase of her career begins, Sieloff will miss the relationships cultivated in the cauldron of Carolina. But she also knows that the environment there is going to help the transition to Germany.
“At the professional level, the margin between players gets smaller,” she said. “The best players are always the sharpest, and make the fewest mistakes. Every day at Carolina, results were recorded and you could see how you matched up against other players. There was a constant pressure to perform your best. I think the competitive mindset will definitely help me here.”