Goalkeeper succeeds on and off field

By Krystal Ward

DeKALB | When Amy Annala, women’s soccer junior goalkeeper, was eight years old, she jumped off a swing set and hurt her arm.

Annala told her mother, but her mother said she would be ok.

Annala went to lie down on the patio and did not think anything of her arm until the next day when her older brother, Jake Annala, jokingly told her to “stop holding your arm like that.”

Amy Annala tried doing the monkey bars at the playground, but her arm would not hold up. She cried to her parents that she would not be able to do gymnastics in their town festival, which prompted a trip to the doctor.

Amy Annala’s arm was broken, but she got a cast and was back on the soccer field the following weekend.

Jake Annala said it illustrates the toughness his sister plays with on the field.

“I remember going to a couple of her soccer games her freshman year of high school, and she wasn’t supposed to be on varsity but really kind of played her way on during tryouts,” Jake Annala said. “You could just tell from day one of high school soccer that she could command the field and people really gave her that respect, and I think that stems from her personality. She didn’t have anything to back herself up on the field yet, but people just wanted to follow her.”

Those same leadership skills have carried over to Amy Annala’s collegiate career. She was selected to represent the Mid-American Conference at the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum this November in Baltimore, Maryland, an accomplishment that recognizes her work on and off the field.

In 2014, Amy Annala, a freshman at the time, saved two penalty kicks in NIU’s win over Miami University in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals on Miami’s field.

“You can see she kind of made her presence known at that moment,” said John Ross, women’s soccer head coach.

After a Sept. 23 soccer match, won 4-0 by NIU against MAC opponent Central Michigan University, junior defender Natalia Pena and senior defender Alex Elias, who work closely with Amy Annala on the backline, raved about how they were able to count on her to make the best saves in the MAC.

Tuesday afternoon, practice ended and Amy Annala sat on the edge of the soccer field, close to the track, to ice her shoulder. Lauren Gierman, junior midfielder and Amy Annala’s teammate and roommate, walked over and stood side-by-side with her on the track as they laughed and joked.

“We had food fights at our house last year,” Gierman said. “[We got] ketchup on the walls and lemon juice in the eyes.”

Gierman would instigate food fights by throwing food at their third roommate, and then that roommate would attack Amy Annala while Gierman sat back and laughed.

Amy Annala’s rap skills are also popular among her teammates and have become synonymous with her fun personality, according to several teammates. Gierman credited Amy Annala’s original raps and called the goalkeeper’s rap flow “pretty legit.”

Gierman mentioned she barely saw Amy Annala at home last semester because she lived at Barsema Hall most of the year doing homework or studying.

Mark Riley, Amy Annala’s accountancy professor, said her balance of the demands of being a student and an athlete is remarkable.

“She’s very dedicated and willing to put forth the effort that’s necessary to succeed in what she cares about,” Riley said. “That’s a characteristic that’ll serve her well, well beyond NIU.”

Amy Annala’s future is one thing her goalkeeper coach Angela Staveskie emphasized Amy deeply cares about.

“She cares about her friends, she cares about her grades, [and] she cares about her future,” Staveskie said. “What you see on the field [with] the impressive numbers, people see in the classroom, people see socially because she represents not only herself well but the community well and her family and everyone around her.”