Student-athlete of the Month: Catherine Klein

Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year strives for excellence on the pitch while pursuing degrees to help others with special needs

Catherine Klein

UND Soccer’s Catherine Klein won the Big Sky Conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year award for her 2017 performance – including an 18-save game that tied a school record. With elementary and special education degrees from UND, she has future plans to make an even bigger difference off the pitch by helping others succeed. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

Over the years, Catherine Klein has put up with the perception that being a goalie is the easiest position in soccer.

You don’t run; you don’t really do anything; you just catch a ball – all are statements she’s heard before.

But despite supposedly not doing anything, Klein is turning heads at home and away as the best goalkeeper around. In fact, she’s the first to bring home an individual conference award in UND Soccer history.

“It’s funny to listen to people – I know my job is much more important than any of those things,” said Klein, referring to the stereotypes out there about goalkeepers.

As much as she’s making a difference on the pitch, Klein also is looking to have just as big a role off the field as she pursues elementary and special education degrees at UND. The sophomore knows she can help students with learning disabilities and special needs.

Sprechen Sie ‘soccer’

A daughter of Air Force parents, Klein will tell you she’s from everywhere. She attended three different high schools, with a large portion of education taking place in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“I was nervous at first,” Klein said, when it came to the prospect of living in Germany. “I wasn’t that good with the language. Soccer helped, because that’s been a super consistent thing in my life.”

Playing since she could walk, Klein always wanted to keep up with her older sisters. But moving to Germany her sophomore year of high school introduced her to a different level of competition.

“It wasn’t hard for us to travel 20 minutes down the road and find a team that was just as good,” she said. “In North Dakota, you have to travel a couple states over.”

Her German club team eventually moved up a division and ended up winning Team of the Year.

Klein yearned to be recruited to play soccer by American universities, but because recruiters only had game film to go by, the process proved difficult.

She also wanted to land at a school that was relatively small and in a tight-knit community. At UND, she’s found that and more amid tough Division I competition.

“It’s great,” Klein exclaimed. “The team really is a family. I know that if I were stuck on the side of the road, I could call anyone on the team and they’d drop everything to help. We’re all like that.”

Her decision to pursue a German minor at UND also gives her a chance to keep practicing the language of her adopted homeland.

Motivated academics

Klein has specific goals for her education, and she’s exploring all options to make them happen.

Her mind’s been made up since the eighth grade.

“I met a girl with Down syndrome and she was the sweetest girl I’ve ever met,” Klein recalled. “We were instantly best friends. Then one day, people were picking on her and I couldn’t understand why. It stuck with me.”

Then her senior year, when she moved from Germany to Utah, she met somebody with autism. Her new friend’s humor and kindness reignited her interest in pursuing special education.

After graduating with her elementary education degree, Klein plans to go straight into her master’s degree in special education.

“I want to help kids learn and find what’s best for them,” she said. “I also want to change how we legally handle special education, because it’s not always treated fairly.”

Catherine Klein

UND Soccer sophomore goalkeeper Catherine Klein (00) leads her team into battle during a 2017 match on campus. She honed her ball skills against top-notch competition in Germany before being recruited to UND. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

Handling pressure

Until she’s out in the world making a difference, Klein will stay committed to her coursework as well as getting UND Soccer a shot at the NCAA’s postseason.

They fell just short in 2017 when UND needed just one goal against the University of Northern Colorado. In the game, Klein tied a school record with 18 saves, but that much-needed goal never came.

“It was the most hectic game I’ve ever played,” she said. “It was so cold, wet and rainy and no one wanted to be there, but we had to push through. I knew I had to pull through for my team, and they did the same for me.”

UND Soccer coach Chris Logan is certain the distinction of Big Sky Goalkeeper of the Year went to the right person.

“Cat’s Big Sky honors reflect her dedication to excellence in practice every single day,” he told UND Today. “She deserved recognition for the big saves at big times for the team this past fall. Cat’s a privilege to coach, she’s a great teammate and fantastic student.”

Klein says her soccer experience has made her better with stress management. The fall soccer season and its compact travel schedule keeps student-athletes on their toes.

Fortunately, the coaching staff does a good job of keeping them in check, giving Klein time to focus on the important stuff.

“Have fun with it,” she offers as advice to other athletes. “I find myself getting so stressed and busy that I forget to spend time with my friends and teammates – to breathe and be a college kid. It can also be a social life, along with soccer and school.”