Oct. 12, 2004
By Matt Woolley, Media Relations Student Assistant
It's been three seasons since Kristin Ruef arrived at Baylor to start her soccer career. Her presence and abilities on the field quickly brought her to the forefront of the Baylor soccer greats, but as a senior Ruef brings more than just talent.
From the beginning, Ruef quickly adapted to the speed and skill of collegiate soccer. Her aggressive play and willingness to learn made her an immediate impact on the Baylor squad, scoring two goals and recording two assists, while playing all 18 games of her freshman year.
In 2002, Ruef started 18 of 19 games for Baylor and broke out as a top name in Baylor's program. Ruef led the Bears in scoring with seven goals and tied Tiffany Boshers for a team-high 15 points as a sophomore. She earned first-team Academic All-Big 12 honors for her performance that season and confirmed herself as the foundation of the Baylor soccer program.
Ruef proved to fans she was willing to do anything for the team when, despite the success she had playing in the front for Baylor, moved from forward to defender her junior season in order to fill holes in the Bears' defense. With her unselfish play and presence in the Bear's backfield, Ruef emerged as the team leader.
"Last year we tried an experiment moving her to defense because we needed her there," second-year head coach George Van Linder said. "This just shows how valuable she is to the team; but, she is so effective when she is up front so we are going to keep using her there as well."
Last season, the Bears graduated seven seniors from the team and filled those spots with many young players. This year, five freshmen hold starting jobs, compared to the seven seniors in 2003. Ruef knows the combination of youth and experience could put the Bears in a good position to reach post-season play.
"I think age is the biggest difference that jumps out at people about the team," Ruef said. "But we are going to make people start believing that we are back as a team. This year we know we have the talent and motivation and we want to prove it."
The diversity on the field should brew a good blend for the Bears this season. The young talent combined with the experience of Ruef and fellow three-year starter Ginny Rosario-Tull has people excited.
"We have a lot of young players this year," Van Linder said, "who will compliment a lot of the older players like Kristin."
However, Ruef knows through experience that success is only achieved through teamwork. Lack of focus and unity over the years has cost the Bears and eventually led Baylor to missing out on the Big 12 Conference Tournament last season. Ruef and the rest of the Baylor soccer program promises this season will be different.
"It takes hard work to get wherever you want to go," Ruef said. "Over the years we have engrained an image of Baylor soccer to other teams and we want to go out and turn that around together as a team."
So far, the youngsters have already satisfied expectations. Freshman goalkeeper Ashley Holder was recently named Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week and earned a spot on the Soccer Buzz National Elite Team of the Week for her play against Texas A&M and Texas.
The combination of youth and experience has proven successful throughout the year, as Ruef helped the Bears hold No. 22 Texas to only one goal in a 2-1 Baylor win, the first over the Longhorns since 1999.
"The young girls are doing awesome," Ruef said. "They are doing a really good job on the field and making it competitive for everyone. They work well as a team which will help them stay together in the future."
Adjusting from high school to college is a drastic change which requires discipline. The game becomes faster and more competitive and can be difficult for some players. The large contingency of young players this season has challenged Ruef and other veterans. Their role is to help make this transition as easy as possible in order for the team to be ready to play.
"They give us a lot of constructive criticism," freshman midfielder Margaret Kaderli said. "They are always building us up and giving us energy and motivating us to work hard. Kristin (Ruef) has definitely helped the younger players get an idea of what it means to play big-time Division I soccer."
As Ruef heads into her fourth and final season, she is still as talented as she was when she first arrived, only more effective with experience.
"I want to make sure that I leave the program knowing I did everything possible to help make Baylor successful," Ruef said. "I think we will show people this year Baylor is heading back towards the top of the conference."