Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

Vanja Mueller’s golden goal for MHS came all the way from Germany

MORGANTOWN — Among the things she mentioned when writing her initial letter to her potential host family, Morgantown High exchange student Vanja Mueller mentioned that she enjoyed playing soccer.

With the high school she would be attending housing the defending state champions in girls’ soccer, she knew being involved with the team was something she wanted to try.

Try she did, as Mueller ended up scoring the golden goal against Parkersburg South in the second overtime of the Class AAA girls’ state championship to secure a second straight title for the Mohigans.

Soccer, or bolzen, as it is called by Mueller and her friends back home in Berlin, Germany, is something she has played since she can remember.

“Nearly everyone plays in Germany,” Mueller said. “Often times my friends and I would go to the park and join in with anyone already playing. I eventually joined a club because they don’t have any high school sports back home.”

Mueller came to America by way of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship program.

“I wanted to experience America so I applied for the opportunity and surprisingly was accepted,” she said. “I had to fill out thousands of forms but everything moved pretty quickly and I was given a host family to be with here in West Virginia. I wrote that I was interested in soccer in my letter to them and they were able to help me become involved with the team.”

Vanja says that soccer is still primarily male-dominant in Germany, so the opportunity to play at a high level with a female team meant a lot to her.

“In Germany soccer is sadly still considered a boys’ sport,” she said. “We didn’t have the financial support that we needed and eventually the whole team at the club I played with moved to a different program in protest and the situation actually got better.”

Mueller didn’t join the Mohigans until the sixth match of the season, ironically against the same team they played in the state championship game, Parkersburg South. But it didn’t take long for her to become an impactful player for first-year MHS head coach Bri Frontuto and her club.

“Vanja was a great addition to our team,” Frontuto said. “She has a quiet demeanor but she was a great friend and teammate and fit right in with our team. On the field, she added tremendous speed and tenacity when going toward goal. She was easily trusted with the ball down the line and had the physicality to beat the defenders, as we saw in the state championship. We really enjoyed having her this year.”

For Mueller, not only has she been able to experience America the way she imagined, but she was also able to improve her skills in soccer and says the opportunity was one she won’t ever forget.

“This was a great chance for me to improve my skills and also my discipline,” she said. “Nobody back home took it as seriously as we have here, and I’ve also found many good friends and nice people through the experience. It was very new because Americans view sports much differently.”

After her championship-securing goal, Mueller said her school days have remained mostly the same, but some teachers whom she doesn’t even have for class have congratulated her in the hallway.

“I still have the same amount of homework, though,” she lamented.