Photos Courtesy of Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film –
Wake Forest forward Katie Stengel is already the most accomplished player in school history, but she’s far from done yet.
The senior from Melbourne, Fla., is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 48 goals and 117 points in 68 games as a Demon Deacon. Stengel is a three-time All-America selection, and the only player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to lead the league in goals scored in both her freshman and sophomore seasons.
Last year as a junior, while she didn’t top the ACC, Stengel led Wake Forest with nine goals scored despite missing the first eight games of the season because she was in Japan busy playing for the U.S. U-20 National Team as they claimed the FIFA U-20 World Cup title. With four goals in the first five games of the 2013 season, she has a legitimate shot at becoming the first ACC player in 15 years to net 60 career tallies.
“She’s raised the level of standards within the team and the team culture,” Wake Forest head coach Tony da Luz said. “I don’t think you’re going to find another player who has had as much of an impact on a program as Katie has.”
While Stengel may have been a late bloomer in the soccer world, not making her first National Team (U-18) until she was a senior in high school, her development over the last four years has been a positive experience for the entire Wake Forest program.
“She’s grown during the whole process of going to all of the camps with the U-20 team and brought those experiences back to our team,” da Luz said. “Every camp she went to she gained new perspective and new standards after being with all the National Team players. I think it has a great influence on our team and program as whole.”
“(Playing internationally has) helped with my pre-game ritual so I can stay calm and be confident and have good expectations on how I should play,” Stengel said. “Playing against all types of players with different styles has helped me in the college game because I’m ready for more. There is such a high caliber player at the international level that I come back to everyday training and expect to compete at that high level every time.”
Being a part of the U-20 squad also gave Stengel memories that rivaled Wake Forest’s 2011 trip to the Women’s College Cup as the best of her career.
“I’d never even thought about winning a World Cup on the world stage,” Stengel said. “That was really cool and something I will always cherish because it was incredible to win that tournament after working so hard for so many years.”
Stengel likes to play as technically clean as possible, but can also take on players physically because of her size and build. She tops the team in both goals (4) and assists (4) this season, and da Luz loves the versatility of his star player.
“She can beat you in so many different ways,” da Luz said. “She’s not a one-dimensional player. She’s developed more of her game over the years and added different things. She’s a very good back-to-goal player and she can turn with the ball probably better than anyone in the country. She’s got enough speed to run with the ball into space and outrun opponents without the ball, and now she’s added in a little more of an air game and free kicks.”
Stengel has netted game-winning goals three times this season, including an overtime score against North Texas and the Deacons’ lone tally on the road at Washington. But she also contributed key assists, including a helper on Caroline Wotton’s game-tying goal in Wake’s come-from-behind defeat of No. 15 Portland on Sept. 8.
“Over the years, she’s worked on rounding herself out and making herself more dangerous so teams can’t focus in on one thing,” da Luz said.
Stengel is not just well-rounded on the field. She carries a 3.41 grade point average and has garnered All-ACC Academic Team honors in each of her first three seasons. Stengel is also co-captain of the squad and a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award, which honors Division I student-athletes who exhibit strong attributes in the community, classroom, character and competition.
With a boost from Stengel and a senior-laden squad, Wake Forest is off to the first perfect non-conference start (5-0-0) in program history. Not too shabby, considering da Luz designed the schedule to land a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if the team did well. It has also prepared them for the ultra-competitive ACC slate.
“You have to play tough teams in the non-conference season in order to get ready for the ACC otherwise it’s going to be a huge competitive shock to your team,” da Luz said.
The No. 7 Demon Deacons are one of seven ACC teams ranked in the NSCAA Division I Top 25, and one of five league squads ranked in the top eight.
“The program has always been up there, but in the past few years we’ve progressed even higher,” Stengel said. “It’s pretty cool to help make Wake Forest a common name and be respected in the women’s soccer world.”
Wake Forest opens up ACC action on Thursday as the Demon Deacons host No. 4 Florida State (5-0-1) at 7 p.m. They then host Miami on Sunday.
Amy Farnum Patronis is a contributing writer for College Soccer News covering Division I women's soccer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org