The season of college recruitment had begun, and Annika Jansa was uncertain about her future.
Although she had been playing soccer since she was young, Jansa said she was torn between assuming the lifestyle of a college athlete or pursuing a more traditional college experience. As coaches and recruiters began reaching out, Jansa didn’t know which programs, if any, to consider.
Then, the letter arrived.
Handwritten and personalized by the Lehigh coaching staff, the letter invited Jansa to visit the campus for a recruiting trip. Touched by the gesture, Jansa decided to give Lehigh a chance.
Four years later, she is completing her final season as a Mountain Hawk.
Jansa, a senior midfielder and defender for the Lehigh women’s soccer team, has been a key player for Lehigh since her freshman year. In addition to starting every game in her career, Jansa tied the Lehigh record for the second-highest number of game-winning goals in a single season, notching four in the 2017 season. Her performances have garnered praise in the Patriot League, earning her three Midfielder of the Week titles.
While she is proud of her accomplishments, Jansa said her main priority is spending the rest of her time at Lehigh with her teammates.
“For my last season, I don’t want to worry about accolades. I just want to enjoy my experience with the team,” Jansa said. “It’s the last time in my life that I’ll get to play soccer, so it’s now about taking advantage of those special moments.”
Jansa said her favorite moments as a Mountain Hawk include team wins, Friday night pasta dinners and the annual Lehigh-Lafayette breakfast, where players can introduce their friends from home to their Lehigh teammates.
Jansa credits the friendships she’s forged with her teammates as the most fulfilling aspect of her experience as a Lehigh athlete. She said the team is “more like a family” than any other soccer program she has encountered.
Senior midfielder and forward Kayla Arestivo said Jansa’s tireless dedication fuels team chemistry and overall success.
“In everything she does, whether it be school, soccer or personal relationships, she’s extremely hardworking,” Arestivo said. “She is the type of leader who cares about her teammates and wants to make sure that everyone is doing things right.”
Coach Eric Lambinus echoed Arestivo, and said Jansa’s remarkable work ethic has established her as a “standout” over the past four years.
Lambinus said Jansa approached the coaching staff last year about the team’s fitness training, which she felt needed improvement. After speaking with the coaches, Jansa organized and implemented a new regimen in practices, which Lambinus credits as the reason for the team being “super fit” this season.
He said Jansa’s initiative with the training program, coupled with her versatile skill set, drove him to view her as a leader. Lambinus ultimately appointed her to team captain this year, which he said was an easy decision.
“She’s probably one of the most talented kids that I’ve ever coached, and she’s the perfect combination of everything that you want in a student athlete,” Lambinus said. “I know that she’s going to do really well moving forward.”
Jansa said Lehigh soccer has granted her long-lasting friendships, time management skills and opportunities she would not have otherwise had, such as participation in the student-athlete council.
More than anything, she said, Lehigh soccer helped mold her into the person she is today.
“Those experiences have helped me over the last four years to grow as a person,” Jansa said. “I don’t know what my life would be without soccer.”
Jansa will continue to lead the Mountain Hawks against Patriot League rival Colgate at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, in New York.