An International Success
Sept. 27, 2007
by Jeff Smith
Since arriving in Columbus three years ago from Switzerland, Lara Dickenmann has been an international success. The highly-touted recruit from Kriens, Switzerland, came to Ohio State in 2004 in search of an American education and a chance to play and excel in the game she grew to love thousands of miles away.
The Buckeyes immediately reaped the benefits of Dickenmann's play during her freshman campaign as she was honored as the Big Ten and National Freshman of the Year. Now in her senior year, the OSU co-captain is a member of the watch list for the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy, the most prestigious individual award in intercollegiate soccer.
"I think there are a lot of good players on the list and I am honored I am one of them," Dickenmann said. "Coming from a different country, it's nice to be recognized so far away from home."
That is the extent of Dickenmann's thoughts on her individual honors at Ohio State, because she is quick to point out how important just being a part of a team has meant to her.
Following high school, Dickenmann felt as though she needed a new challenge in soccer and her parents encouraged her to look into heading to college in the U.S. It didn't take too much nudging; Dickenmann always dreamt of coming to this country for that exact challenge.
She viewed attending Ohio State as a trial run. She was going to try it out for a year or so and then ultimately make the decision whether this new life was right for her. The Swiss National team was waiting for her if she had made the choice to return to the homeland, but it didn't take long for Dickenmann to realize that Columbus, Ohio - population 1 million - was a better fit for her at this time than back home in Kriens - population 25,000.
"I didn't think about the whole year or four years," she said. "I knew after three weeks this was the place for me. It was always a dream to come over here and learn English and play soccer, so this has really been a dream come true."
Dickenmann knows how much she has grown individually since crossing the pond and attributes much of that growth to her soccer family.
In her freshman season, Dickenmann played without much pressure as nine seniors led the Buckeyes to a 19-4-3 overall mark, including 6-1-3 in the Big Ten. OSU claimed the Big Ten Tournament title and earned a coveted bid to the NCAA Tournament. And without that pressure, Dickenmann shined. She set the school's scoring record with 38 points, while her 13 goals and 12 assists that season were also the Buckeyes' overall top single-season mark. She was selected to the All-Big Ten Tournament team and was honored as the conference's and nation's top freshman.
"It was a wonderful thing for her to win those awards, but with nine seniors on the team, all Lara had to do was play," said Ohio State head coach Lori Walker. "She was fairly naïve to the dynamic of the team and what you have to love is the spotlight doesn't motivate her. What motivates her is the team's success."
Dickenmann has continued to contribute a great deal to the team's success. The Buckeyes opened this year with six straight wins at home, which marked the program's best start in school history. Despite dropping the last three on the road to Louisville, 19-time national champion and No. 8 North Carolina and Duke, all of which were NCAA Tournament teams last year, Ohio State is poised for conference action. The Buckeyes open Big Ten play at home on Friday against Illinois. The two teams have each won five times and have split the last four meetings. In last year's 2-0 upset over the No. 10 Fighting Illini squad, it was Dickenmann who scored both goals.
Currently, she leads the Buckeyes in goals (4) and points (9) and has also notched a team-best three game-winners this season.
"We are looking forward to being one of the top teams in the conference this year," Dickenmann said. "Since we haven't done all that well the past two years, we have extra motivation right now to get off to a good start in Big Ten play."
Once the conference campaign and postseason is complete, Dickenmann plans to continue working toward her degree in international business.
The diploma won't necessarily serve as a stamp on her passport back home to Switzerland. She is open to traveling elsewhere and learning new languages.
"There are a lot of companies that are soccer related that I would love to work for," she said. "I speak German, English and some French, but I would love to get my French to the level my English is at. I would also be open to learning some Spanish as well."
Being able to speak four languages, or even just the three she currently knows, makes Dickenmann a well-rounded commodity for the real world. But in the mean time, Walker is content with having her on the field, coaching the "most well-rounded soccer player she has ever coached."
"Lara and I were just talking about this the other day... she is such a better soccer player than she was her freshman year," Walker said. "She is very dangerous on the attack, but her athleticism allows her to be so effective in transition. The biggest change I have seen is that she takes pride in her ability to defend."
It is rare to see a soccer standout rank so high in the history books in both scoring and assists. You look at Dickenmann's freshman season and her school-best 12 assists came on a team where Lisa Grubb (10), Danielle Dietrich (8) and Colleen Hoban (8) all recorded assist totals that rank in the program's top five of all time.
Dickenmann heads into Friday's conference opener with career marks of 253 shots and 22 assists, which are second-best in program history, while her 82 points and 27 goals rank third and fifth, respectively. Grubb holds the school record in each category with 325 shots, 35 goals, 25 assists and 95 points.
But those career marks are the last thing on Dickenmann's mind right now. She is only focused on wins, a Big Ten Championship and an NCAA Tournament bid.
"There is nothing like this in Europe," she said. "I never would have gotten these opportunities if I stayed home."
Which is exactly what makes her such an international success.