A few days before University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin’s Sarah Hagen heads overseas to play for Bayern Munich, Our Game assistant editor Ryan Wood had a chance to catch up with the four-time All-America selection, who recently set school and league records in goals scored (26) and points (61) in a single-season for the Panthers.
First off, congratulations on signing your first professional contract. How did it all come about with Bayern Munich? And, what was your reaction when you knew you had a chance to play in Bundesliga?
Playing professional has always been a dream of mine, and in the past two years it has become more of a goal of mine. After our season ended, I knew I wanted to play professionally somewhere, but wasn’t sure where exactly. My assistant coach at UWM, David Nikolic, played a huge role in helping me find the right team to play for. He helped find me an agent who then talked to many different club teams over in Germany. The offer came from Bayern Munich, and I was very excited, but also knew that it was now between them and WPS [Women’s Professional Soccer]. The biggest concern for me with WPS was the amount of teams left in the league. I know it’s a very competitive league, and I feel that by going over to Munich, I will be able to make an impact right away. I’ve heard much about Bayern Munich and their program and am extremely excited and grateful for this opportunity.
What is it like knowing that you are now a professional soccer player less than a month after your final college game? Finally becoming a professional soccer player feels unreal, and I haven’t even had a practice with the team yet. Having a opportunity like this is something that not many people can experience, and I’m just so thankful that I can experience it.
How much are you looking forward to your first training session (and when do you arrive in Germany and begin with the team)? I arrive in Germany on January 10th and am very excited for the first practice and getting to know everyone. I’m also very excited about moving into the apartment and getting settled in. I’m sure the first week is going to be a challenge, but I know it will be a lot of fun.
How difficult was it to choose between signing for Bayern or entering the WPS Draft? It was extremely hard to choose between the two leagues. I’ve been to a few different countries playing soccer, but those trips were only for 10 days. So I think living over in Germany for five months will be a big change for me, but I am looking forward to it. It would have been nice for my parents and friends if I would’ve played in WPS, but I think a few people might still visit me while I’m in Munich.
Do you have an option to join WPS once the Bundesliga season is over? And if so, is that something you’d like to pursue? Yes. I have declared myself eligible for the WPS Draft, and from what I’ve been hearing, I can get picked up from a team after my season with Bayern Munich is over.
What do you feel you will bring to Bayern Munich, and do you think it will take time to adjust to playing there? Well, being a forward, I hopefully can bring them some goals. I think with my size and ability to finish out of the air will hopefully contribute to the team. More than anything, I just want to be able to contribute and help the team win.
You’ve played in international games before with the U.S. U-23s. Having played at such a high level, did that help prepare you for playing professional soccer? Definitely. Playing with the U23’s has helped me so much. I remember coming into my first couple of camps with them and feeling not really sure if I deserved to be there, but as I kept getting called back, I started to get more and more confidence and belief in myself, which helped me grow as a player. Playing with the best college players in the States and then playing against the some of the best players in different countries really improved my play.
Looking back at your college career, what are the one or two things that really stand out and what was your overall experience like at UWM? I enjoyed every second of my career at UWM and am very sad to have it end, but at the same time very excited to move on to bigger things. Coming in as a freshman, I wasn’t sure if I was going to start or even be able to have as much success as a did in club. My goal freshman year was to score five goals, and I think I did that in three games. I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted my success at UWM, including myself. However, as each year and season went by, the more and more drive I got to take my game to the next level. I am so thankful that Mike Moynihan and David Nikolic both gave me the opportunity to play at UWM. I think looking back at my career at UWM, the thing that I’m most proud about is our win against Illinois State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That was our program’s first win in the tournament, and after losing in the first round the previous three years, our team this past year worked so hard to finally get that win.
German is probably one of the toughest languages to learn. Have you started studying up or can you speak the language (enough of it to make your way around)? I actually got Rosetta Stone for Christmas, so I have been trying to learn German, but it has been a struggle. I have a learned a few things, but it is a lot harder than I expected.
Have you been to or played any games in Germany before (either with U.S. youth national teams or club teams)? If so, what was that experience like. I have played in Germany before. It was with the U.S. U23’s and we stayed in Marburg, which was towards the middle of Germany. So I’m not familiar at all with Munich, but I’ve heard so many great things about Munich.