Voigt extends athletic career by joining Gophers soccer as backup goalie

Jackie Voigt played on the Gophers women’s basketball team for four years.

Jackie Voigt transitioned from playing on the women’s basketball team to being a goalie on Minnesota’s soccer team.

Blake Leigh

Jackie Voigt transitioned from playing on the women’s basketball team to being a goalie on Minnesota’s soccer team.

Betsy Helfand

With the conclusion of the Women’s Basketball Invitational last March, Jackie Voigt’s four-year tenure as a power forward on the women’s basketball team concluded.

Around that same time, a unique set of circumstances enabled Voigt to trade her sneakers for a pair of soccer cleats.

During the summer of 2011, Voigt worked an internship with WCCO and had an opportunity to talk to then-soccer head coach Mikki Denney Wright.

“She jokingly said, ‘You should come play a fifth year of soccer,’” Voigt said.

It’s no joke now — Voigt is a full-time member of the Gophers soccer team as one of its backup goalies. She hasn’t played in a game yet, but she’s getting better by the day, and she’s using her unique experience to help the team improve as well.

The former basketball player completed her undergraduate sport management degree in 2011. Since then, she has been working on a master’s degree in applied kinesiology with an emphasis in sport management, meaning she is around the University even after graduating from the women’s basketball team.

But it wasn’t until February that pursuing soccer became a serious possibility.

Denney Wright contacted Voigt about the possibility of joining the team after the 2011-12 basketball season ended.

She was looking for someone to play goalie, as the spring season was around the corner and the team’s starter at the position, Cat Parkhill, was injured at the time.

Denney Wright had remembered Voigt from her high school days when she went to a couple camps with Denney Wright’s team, Voigt said.

At the time Denney Wright contacted her, basketball was Voigt’s top priority, so she delayed her decision until the end of the WBI. Soon after it ended, she attended a soccer practice, met members of the team and decided it might be a good fit for her in the spring.

The decision wasn’t automatic.

“I definitely thought about it. I thought about what most people would say — ‘You’ve played basketball for four straight years. Aren’t you a little tired?’” Voigt said. “And that’s kind of what I took the spring to see: Is this going to be a positive experience and not just something that I’m going to end up not wanting to do?”

She knew a couple of the girls on the team and had lunch with seniors Tamara Strahota and Marissa Price to get their opinions without any of the coaches present.

One of the main reasons Voigt said she joined the team was that she knew how short her career could be.

“You only get so long to be an athlete, and your body is only going to allow you to be an athlete so long,” she said. “I think that kind of was a big motivator.”

A three-sport athlete at Park High School, Voigt played basketball, soccer and was on the track team. She was the first female athlete in the history of her high school to earn all-state honors in three sports.

She was a backup goalie on her high school team for two years before becoming the starter her senior year.

But basketball was her sport, and her commitment to Minnesota’s basketball team signaled the end of her soccer-playing days.

During her time with the women’s basketball team, Voigt established herself as one of the program’s best rebounders.

A starter for a significant portion of her basketball career, she finished fifth on the school’s all-time list with 413 defensive rebounds and eighth in offensive boards with 219.

In her senior season, she averaged 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds.

But the conclusion of her four years on the basketball team and Denney Wright’s offer meant an opportunity to pursue a new challenge.

Although her high school experience has served her well, she faced a new set of difficulties after taking four years off from soccer.

“Diving and getting back up as fast as I can — that was probably the biggest challenge,” Voigt said.

Getting into “goaltender shape” and relearning the right form also posed challenges that Voigt hadn’t faced since high school.

She said assistant coach Deana Waintraub has been helpful in her transition.

“She’s been a really good teacher for goalkeepers, and that’s really what I needed to try to learn as much as I could.”

Waintraub said the coaching staff is working on Voigt’s quickness.

“She’s a very tall young lady, which is a great attribute for a goalkeeper, but we need to make sure that she’s quick in getting to the ground so she’s not susceptible there,” Waintraub said.

In basketball, movement is forward and backward but mostly on the same level, Waintraub said. But as a goaltender, she said Voigt must relearn how to get low to the ground quickly.

Head coach Stefanie Golan said Voigt is a great asset to the team because of her experience in a team setting.

Still, Voigt’s transition was sharp. She jumped from a sport in which she played frequently to one in which she has yet to see game action.

“She brings that positive dynamic to the team of ‘Guys, how awesome is it that we get to do this every day?’” Golan said.

When Golan was a senior at Duke University, she said she and her roommate were asked “half jokingly but half seriously” to join the lacrosse team.

She declined because she didn’t want to learn a new sport.

Golan’s case was similar to two former soccer players, Josie Solie and Alex Pafko, who joined the softball team last season.

The pair filled pinch-running roles on their new team. Like Voigt, they were not starters on their new team, but unlike Voigt, neither had high school experience in their new sport.

Returning to a sport at such a high level with a successful Division I program after taking so much time off would be tough, Golan said. But she praised Voigt for handling it well so far.

Maybe even well enough to earn some playing time.

At Monday’s practice, when the Gophers focused heavily on set pieces — a weakness of theirs this season — Golan said that Voigt was “getting a touch on absolutely everything.”

“I think she only gave up one goal in 32 attempts against her, and it was funny because you could see different players who were talking going ‘Man, do you see that?’” Golan said.

Golan said Voigt is “on the brink” of playing in a game and she has a good chance to play soon if she continues to succeed with set pieces.