By David Hughes
TERRE HAUTE — As we go through the ups and downs of everyday life, priorities often change.
Rose-Hulman multi-sport standout Liz Ridgway learned that first-hand in the last five years.
Upon graduating from Grosse Pointe South (Mich.) High School in 2004, she accepted a scholarship to play NCAA Division I women’s soccer at the University of Michigan.
Ridgway scored 19 goals as a forward during her senior season in high school, but she was recruited to be a defender and that’s what she did as a freshman on the Wolverines’ club team in the fall of 2004. In the spring of 2005, she started for the real Michigan women’s team.
“Everyone got a lot of playing time,” Ridgway recalled this week. “But in the end, it wasn’t for me. The school was too big.”
So she transferred to Northwestern, another member of the Big Ten Conference, in 2005.
“I wanted to prove I could play Division I soccer,” Ridgway explained.
A broken L4 vertebrae delayed her Northwestern debut and caused her to wear a foam back brace in future games, but rehab went smoothly and she was able to return before the end of the fall season.
In the spring of 2006, a fully recovered Ridgway started at defender. But a 2005 hazing incident left the Northwestern women’s soccer program in disarray and led to coach Jenny Haigh’s resignation in the summer of 2006, putting Ridgway’s scholarship status in jeopardy.
So she transferred to Rose-Hulman, where then-coach Brad Hauter welcomed her with open arms.
“I knew I made the right decision right away,” emphasized Ridgway, who majors in civil engineering and also competes in basketball and track and field at the Division III institute.
“I love the sense of community here. I love that I can play sports that I enjoy, but in the end I’m here for the academics… Coming here was the best decision I could make.”
Ridgway, who returned to the forward position in soccer, certainly made her mark at Rose. She was a three-year all-conference soccer selection and helped the 2007 Engineers reach the Division III tournament.
In 2008, Ridgway posted a team-high 19 goals with six assists.
In basketball, the senior forward leads Rose-Hulman in scoring with an average of 10.9 points per game. The Engineers, coached by Jon Prevo, are 6-13 overall and 3-9 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) entering Saturday’s home matchup against Transylvania.
“She gives us enthusiasm and athleticism on the court,” Prevo mentioned. “She has stepped up her leadership role this year. She’s done a real nice job with that.”
With five regular-season games remaining (three at home), the Engineers need to climb into the top six in the league standings to qualify for the HCAC postseason tournament. Right now, Bluffton is sixth at 4-7.
“We’re going to have to beat some of the dominant teams,” Ridgway admitted, “but every one of our games has been close. The heart’s been there. The effort’s been there. So I think we can do it and we will do it.”
Regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, Ridgway will carry fond memories of her Rose athletic experiences into her adult life.
“I love it,” she said. “I love the camaraderie with all my teammates. It’s more serious than high school, but it’s not a job here. It’s obviously more fun when you win, but it’s still fun every day.”
On Thursday, Ridgway was named to the ESPN The Magazine college division academic all-district team in women’s basketball, according to a news release from the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Ridgway earned third-team academic all-district accolades to become just the second Rose-Hulman student-athlete ever to earn academic all-district honors in two sports.
A few months ago, Ridgway was named an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American in women’s soccer. She joins 2004 graduate Jessica Farmer as the only two-sport academic all-district winners in school history.
Ridgway still has the 2009 track and field season to go before she graduates and starts working for Exxon Mobil in Fairfax, Va., this summer.
In the spring of 2008, having never competed in track before, she learned how to throw the javelin and placed second in the HCAC outdoor championships. She also finished fourth in the HCAC in the triple jump after doing it for the first time one week earlier.
“Division III sports are about having fun,” Ridgway assessed. “We put our all into every game and every meet. That’s all anyone can ask for.”
• Former Hautean in Tampa — Former Terre Haute resident Randy Knowles, his wife Tapanee and two other family members live in Tampa, Fla., so naturally they tried to get into Raymond James Stadium on Sunday to watch Super Bowl XLIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals.
Hoping to buy tickets priced at face value — which were rumored to be available in Tampa last week — Randy and his family showed up outside the stadium three hours before kickoff.
They did not succeed in finding reasonably priced tickets, but they gave it their best shot.
“The Steeler fans were much more friendlier and not at all obnoxious as compared to the Philly [Phillies] fans that were down here for the World Series, in which I was able to go to Game One,” Randy wrote in an e-mail to me.
I’m surprised Randy didn’t talk his way into the stadium Sunday. Back in March 1979, he and I purchased face-value tickets minutes before the NCAA Midwest Regional men’s basketball championship game between Indiana State and Arkansas in Cincinnati.
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.