Kaeding’s career comes to a close


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Jackie Kaeding has given her mind, body, and soul to the Iowa soccer team the last five years.

On Saturday, the midfielder will do so once more, donning her No. 9 Hawkeye uniform for the final time when Iowa plays at Purdue. The emotional event is something the fifth-year senior has been trying to prepare herself for.

“I won’t be able to identify myself as a soccer player for Iowa anymore,” Kaeding said. “It’s been a huge part of my life, and it’s been so much fun, so naturally it’s kind of upsetting to think about it being over.”

As a native of Coralville and a West High graduate in 2005, Kaeding has built a legacy in the local community. People recognize her name when it pops up in newspapers or conversations.

With so much history invested in her team and her city, the two-year captain can’t help but think about what her life will be like when it’s over.

“I’ve been getting really nostalgic the last couple weeks,” she said. “It’s not even just my college soccer career, it’s like all of my organized sports ever are coming to an end. It’s been really hard. I’ve been having emotional breakdowns about it because it’s kind of life as I’ve known it.”

The three-time academic All-Big Ten honoree has recorded seven goals and six assists in her career. She has started 52 of 61 possible matches.

But accomplishments aside, her teammates said her intangible qualities are what they will most.
“Her leadership — to do what she felt was right every time she stepped on the field, not just for herself but for her teammates, too,” junior Keli McLaughlin said. “That’s something that’s going to be really missed when she’s gone.”

To understand how much sentiment Kaeding has for her team and the university she grew up loving, all one needed to see was her blue eyes misting up after Iowa’s 3-2 loss to Michigan State in overtime — the last home game of her Hawkeye career.

Over her years at Iowa, she has been through it all on the field — tragic losses and incredible wins.

She helped Iowa increase its win total during each of her five seasons and guide it to a program-best 8-2 start this year.

During the team’s media day in August, Kaeding talked about wanting to “leave her mark on the program.” McLaughlin said Kaeding has definitely accomplished that goal.

“Her work ethic has rubbed off on all of us,” McLaughlin said. “She’s good at motivating herself and others, too. She left her footprint in how to work hard.”

Iowa head coach Ron Rainey did his best to quantify Kaeding’s value to the team over her career.

“Jackie has meant a ton to the team,” he said. “She has pushed through injuries, scored goals in big games, and been athletic to the point she can be put anywhere on the field — while also taking on a leadership role in the past couple of years.

“She has an infectious personality. Off the field and on the field, she has fun and works very hard. She is a great individual from a great Hawkeye family.”

After five years of emotionally and physically draining herself for the good of the team, Kaeding promised to control her emotions during the final match of her career.

“It will be totally different when I get on the field,” Kaeding said on Oct. 29 before Iowa beat Michigan at home for its first Big Ten win. “I’m going to try to get away from the attitude that I have to do so much because these are going to be the last games I’m ever going to play. I need to go with the flow and just keep in mind I can’t be regretting looking back on my last couple games and regret not giving my all.”

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