Iowa soccer fifth-year senior Monica Wilhelm reflects on up-and-down career

Wilhelm has been a mainstay on the Iowa soccer team since 2018. As she plans to graduate in December, she said her final year is filled with sentiment.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa goalkeeper Monica Wilhelm kicks the ball during a soccer game against Pacific at the Iowa Soccer Complex in Iowa City on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. The Hawkeyes and the Tigers tied, 1-1. Wilhelm recorded two saves and allowed one goal.

Sam Knupp, Sports Reporter

Goalkeeper Monica Wilhelm has been a mainstay in the Iowa soccer program for five years.

During her collegiate career, Wilhelm has played in 35 games, made 128 saves, and has earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice. This season is her fifth and final with the Hawkeyes, and she said it’s filled with sentiment.

Wilhelm, along with many other veteran players, started her Iowa soccer career in the 2018-19 season. Wilhelm said the relationships the veterans have formed together have improved their on-field performance.

“When you’re that close with friendships, you play differently,” Wilhelm said. “You play so much harder for each other because you got each other’s back.”

Wilhelm is from Antioch, Illinois — an hour north of Chicago. When choosing schools, she knew she wanted to go to a Big Ten school to stay close to home.

The goalkeeper said playing at Iowa has allowed her to keep a close relationship with her parents who attend every home game.

“Thursday games, my dad actually takes off work so that he can be at all of them,” Wilhelm said. “So, it’s been incredible to have them here just supporting me and the team. And, I mean, they’re my best friends and my biggest supporters, so I’ve really appreciated it.”

Coming in as a freshman, Wilhelm had a lot of unknowns. She said she didn’t know what her role would be or what her playing time would look like, but she pushed herself regardless.

“I was going to do the best I could to push whoever was in the net at the time,” Wilhelm said. “If it was somebody older, how can I learn from them while I’m helping them grow — and also learn from them so that I can grow as well?”

Along with strong relationships with her teammates and parents, Wilhelm said her faith has grown since coming to Iowa in 2018. Wilhelm, a devout Christian, said her faith has helped her play more freely and have more fun on the field.

Wilhelm is also a part of Athletes in Action, a Christian organization.

“I think coming into the season, I’ve had a lot of growth prior, especially with my faith,” Wilhelm said. “Honestly, that’s the biggest part of my life and so I think the growth that I’ve had in my faith has helped me to just play more freely this whole season.”

“I came into college as a believer, and then I just met so many great people like our director of ops, Steph Burak, and her husband Nathan, and just so many people with Athletes in Action that I just kept growing in my faith each year that I’ve been here,” Wilhelm said.

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The fifth-year senior has had an up-and-down career at Iowa, trading starts with junior goalkeeper Macy Enneking for much of her tenure. She said realizing her identity wasn’t in soccer, but in God, helped her overcome the trials and tribulations she faces in sports.

The competition for the starting position was also easier because of her close relationship with the other Hawkeye goalkeepers, she said.

“We were all competing, but we just care so much about each other as human beings and we just want the best for each other that we put competition aside,” Wilhelm said. “We’re not going to be selfish and only think about ourselves.”

Wilhelm has just two regular season games left as a Hawkeye, and she’s set to graduate in December. But Wilhelm doesn’t plan to hang up her boots and gloves at the end of the season.

“Ever since I was five years old. I’ve wanted to play professional soccer,” Wilhelm said. “And as long as God has that desire in my heart, I’m going to keep chasing after it. So, I think the plan right now is to just finish out the season the best that I can with my team to be as successful as I can, and then go from there.”

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