Lehigh women's soccer sophomore midfielder Annika Jansa stands by the goal on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, at Ulrich Sports Complex. Jansa is the leading scorer for the Mountain Hawks this season with three goals. (Annie Henry/B&W Staff)

Jansa shines in familiar role for Lehigh women’s soccer


Sophomore midfielder Annika Jansa started playing soccer when she was 4 years old.

She’s now 19.

Most of her younger years were spent playing recreationally, and her development as a player came later on in her life.

Until the time came to start making decisions, Jansa hadn’t given a thought to where she would attend college or if she would even continue to play soccer.

“I was never the type of person who growing up was like, ‘I’m going to play soccer in college,’” Jansa said.

After she received her first recruiting letter, which happened to be from Lehigh, the deal was sealed.

A few years ago, the Lehigh coaching staff was watching junior midfielder Clare Severe play in a game when its eyes fell on Jansa, Severe’s club soccer teammate. Coach Eric Lambinus said from watching her play, it was obvious she embodied a lot of the characteristics he looks for in a player.

“When we saw her, we immediately recognized that she would be a player that would fit our style, that we would like a lot,” Lambinus said. “She’s pretty crafty, just a really good, solid player. Good IQ. From that moment, we decided that she was going to be one of our top kids.”

Jansa remembers receiving the handwritten note the first day coaches were allowed to contact players and said it left an impression on her. She visited several different schools but said the team relationships and dynamic of the Lehigh women’s soccer team stood out to her.

This year is Jansa’s second with the team, but her role is different from when she was a first-year student.

Jansa was recruited as a midfielder but placed in a defensive role as a freshman because she had been playing outside back for the last year and a half of her club team career, and Lehigh was looking to fill the same spot.

However, as soon as her first season ended, she was moved back to midfield and was given spring games to transition back into her former position.

Lambinus said as a midfielder, Jansa is the anchor and pivot who centers a lot of what the team does, both offensively and defensively.

When she was a freshman, Jansa didn’t have the opportunity to lead the team in goals scored like she does this season. However, she said the team realizes everyone has a different role and can contribute, even if it’s not in the form of scoring.

“I was pretty confident even freshman year, which translated well into this year,” Jansa said. “Switching positions was definitely an adjustment, especially into such a key position for the team, but I think that my confidence really transferred over, and I was able to adjust well to the role that was needed of me this year.”

Jansa owns three of the team’s 10 goals so far this season.

“The goals that I score come from all of the work of the other players,” Jansa said. “I’m not technically the top scorer, even though statistics may show that, because other players have created those chances for me.”

Lambinus said the team controls the ball more this year compared to past years, and the culture and style of play have both changed significantly from last year, a lot of which Lambinus attributes to Jansa.

Compared to last season, Jansa said the team started connecting on more passes and playing through the midfield. She added that her teammates have improved at getting the ball wide and creating more opportunities.

“Our defense is obviously always super strong,” Jansa said, “so that’s always to our advantage, but those other aspects have really been improving too, which is helping us.”

She said the team tried out a new formation this season and is now able to succeed in it.

Senior defender and captain Alyssa Riporti said the team has been able to keep possession of the ball from the defense to the midfield to the forwards and is creative in terms of choosing what ways to attack and styles of play to use. She said in her four years at Lehigh, the team is the best that it’s ever been because of its stronger foundation of play and culture.

“I think something we want to work on is definitely never turning off,” Riporti said, “like being on for all 90 minutes, beginning of the first half, beginning of the second half.”

Jansa said the team needs to communicate more so all players are on the same page and pressuring as a unit while moving the line of confrontation higher and pressuring sooner.

Jansa’s goal is to be more vocal by letting players know where they should be on the field. She also aims to serve as a leader for the younger players, something that Riporti has recognized. She calls Jansa a leader by example.

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