IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Morgan Asmussen heard more than the usual greeting — “Hi, Morgan” — on her way to classes at Lake Forest High School in the spring.
She no longer was Morgan Asmussen, Eclipse Select soccer club player, in 2017. She was Morgan Asmussen, LFHS senior outside back and first-year varsity starter. Classmates and other students had certainly heard she could play soccer well at a high level from 2014-16, but they hadn’t seen her stymie forwards with her relentlessness or ignite transitions with her vision and technical skills.
Eclipse Select trains and competes at venues nowhere near Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, Asmussen’s hometown.
The local standout wowed local onlookers in ’17 and heard this or variations of this — “Great game, Morgan” — during school hours.
“Once she decided to play high school soccer, she gave it her all,” Scouts coach Ty Stuckslager says. “Morgan joined our program with the intent to make the team better and to make herself a better player. Not all club players do that; she did that.
“She was grateful for the experience,” the coach adds. “We had some amazing crowds — big crowds like those at the Pepsi Showdown — at the end of our season (12-4-1, with the last home loss occurring in a Class 3A regional final against Lake Zurich HS).”
Asmussen played alongside center-back and DePaul University-bound Gwen Walker, one of the best in the state at her position. Walker had played full-time club soccer for Eclipse Select rival FC United before opting to commit to the Scouts at the start of her sophomore year.
The two had taken one class together, French — as freshmen.
Asmussen and Walker became good amies as seniors and teammates.
“I enjoyed getting to know her and competing with her,” says the 5-foot-4 Asmussen, a University of Miami (Florida) recruit who arrived in Coral Gables earlier this month to begin training with the Hurricanes while taking calculus and film classes. “Getting to play ‘D’ with Gwen was pretty cool. Gwen was definitely a rock in the back for us. We all trusted her, and she was excellent at clearing and heading the ball.”
Asmussen — an all-North Suburban Conference selectee — clearly had a teammate’s back in the middle of a match in the spring. An opposing player had fouled a Scout hard. Excessively hard. Asmussen took exception to the collision and chose to deliver a firm message.
“Morgan,” Walker recalls, “went right up to that player and said, ‘Watch it!’ That showed all of us what kind of teammate she was, showed all of us how willing she was to look out for a teammate. She does a lot of things that make her stand out in soccer, but the thing she does particularly well is her desire to do everything possible to make sure the ball does not get behind her.
“She’s versatile, makes great runs, distributes the ball well,” Walker adds. “I wish we could’ve played one more season together.”
Before moving with her family from San Diego to Lake Bluff before the seventh grade, Asmussen dabbled in several sports — tee-ball and gymnastics, among others — at a YMCA. At the age of 8, she played for a club soccer team that captured a California State Cup. That championship feeling stuck with her.
“Being on that team really made me want to keep playing competitive soccer,” says Asmussen, who later played for San Diego Surf, which won a prestigious national title (the Surf Cup) without having to leave the state.
One of her Eclipse Select teams finished fifth at a national tournament.
But don’t think for a second that Asmussen is about soccer and nothing else. The marine and atmospheric science major intends to partake in Air Force ROTC at Miami and complete a four-year commitment to the Air Force after graduation.
It’s what Asmussens do. Her mother, Colette, attended the United States Air Force Academy, and her father, Eric, enrolled in Air Force ROTC at San Diego States University.
Eric Asmussen is a regional veterans’ employment coordinator at the U.S. Department of Labor, his daughter notes proudly.
“Incredible, super admirable,” Walker says of Morgan Asmussen’s post-college plans. “Her parents are awesome, and so is she. She’s funny, fun to be around, and she’s super down-to-earth.
“The Air Force is something that’s important to Morgan,” she adds. “The commitment she has for it is a strong one.”
For now, Asmussen hopes to soar as a promising candidate for playing time this fall in the eyes of Hurricanes’ coach Mary-Frances Monroe and her assistants. Who knows? Monroe might one day deploy a couple of backs with Lake County ties; Lake Forest native Hannah Marwede — a 6-foot Hurricanes defender and another Eclipse Select product — will be a sophomore for the Atlantic Coast Conference team in the fall.
“It’s pretty humid down here; 90-degree-plus temperatures just the other day,” says the speedy Asmussen, who loves to run in between soccer practices and matches. “Big change. But I’m getting used to this kind of heat, day by day. Our coaches focus a lot on fitness and conditioning. Our head coach believes if we’re fit we’re going to give ourselves chances to stay in close games and score last-minute goals. There has also been an emphasis on technical aspects of the game, like making sure our passes — even the little ones — go right to the feet.”
Stuckslager sees Asmussen facing the challenges of Division I soccer with fearlessness and a steady mindset. Sure, at first, many of the players at that level will be bigger and stronger. But size and strength don’t always overwhelm two of Asmussen’s striking traits — grit and persistence.
“Those words do get tossed around a lot when coaches talk about their athletes,” Stuckslager admits. “Morgan, though, demonstrated both of those qualities each time she played for us. They made us a strong team, and she fit in well with her style of play.
“She’ll go up against some special players with a lot of skills in college,” the coach adds, “but Morgan won’t play against anybody with a bigger heart than the one she has.”