Moving to a new school is almost never easy for anyone, but this wasn’t the case for Jackson senior Cammie Pieper, who moved to the area after attending Ft. Zumwalt North for two years.
Pieper established herself as a starting defender for Ft. Zumwalt North’s soccer team, but she was still excited to join a program like Jackson last year that was coming off it’s first-ever trip to the final four.
“[Moving] was very stressful at first, and I especially worried about soccer the most,” Pieper said. “Like being able to come on a good team and make varsity or not. Then they just made it so welcoming here — especially Coach McMullen. It was a nice experience being able to play with such a good team.”
Jackson head coach Justin McMullen was also excited for Pieper to become an Indian, and like the rest of the team did, welcomed her with open arms.
“When [Pieper] was touring our school on her campus visit, I ran into her and started talking to her,” McMullen said. “I actually knew some people she knew, so I kind of knew what player I was getting already before she stepped on the field for us. Anytime you can get a quality transfer in that impacts your program, it’s a big win.”
While the Indians failed to make it back to state in 2019, they still managed to capture a third-straight Class 4 District 1 Championship as Pieper helped Jackson record a total of 15 shutouts. On defense, Pieper was playing with the likes of former Indians Taylor Nelson, who is now playing in college and transferred from Lindenwood to Southeast Missouri State, and Laura Bertrand.
Now one month before her final season of high school soccer begins, Pieper officially signed her national letter of intent to play in college for Culver-Stockton.
“It meant the world to me [to sign with Culver-Stockton],” Pieper said. “I was super excited about it, and I found the perfect place for me to play.”
Pieper first started playing soccer when she was only in the first grade, and she looked up to her older siblings who also played the sports. What Pieper enjoys the most about soccer is being in a team environment that feels like having a second family, which means a lot to her.
Pieper will be joining a former teammate at Culver-Stockton from Ft. Zumwalt North, Courtney Croghan, as well as another player from the Southeast Missouri area Kirstin Jannin, who played for Perryville. For Pieper, knowing players who were on Culver-Stockon’s roster made the school her top choice.
“My freshman year [at Ft. Zumwalt North] I made varsity, and it was hard to get used to being so young on a team with that many girls,” Pieper said. “[Croghan] took me under her wing, and she ended up going to Culver-Stockton. Being able to play with her again meant a lot.”
Many athletes at Jackson play multiple sports especially members of the soccer team with the exception of players like Pieper. Only participating in one sport allowed Pieper to get to know last year’s senior class.
“They were just so sweet to me right away,” Pieper said. “I got along with the senior class last year really well. … I was so excited by just the thought of being a district champion because that was something I had never done before. The memory of winning districts is something that has me awestruck.”
Another reason why the move to Jackson was an easy transition is because of how welcoming her teachers and fellow classmates are as well.
Pieper said the most difficult part of adjusting to Jackson was Coach McMullen’s offseason workouts in the winter, and she said she was sore “all the time” because of them. This forced Pieper to train more than she previously had in order for her body to be prepared for workouts that included plenty of cardio and weightlifting.
“I know Coach McMullen’s workouts are getting me in good shape, and I know I’ll have to continue that before I go over to Culver between that little gap in the summer,” Pieper said.
Coach McMullen said Pieper became one of his team’s anchors on defense in a short amount of time last season, and he describes her as a great teammate with great character from a great family. McMullen’s assistant coach Caleb Beussink, who graduated from Culver-Stockton, let McMullen know the school would be a good fit for Pieper.
“She does really well at tackling, and she recovers really well,” Coach McMullen said. “She has really good speed and vision, and she does a really good job of staying in position and making runs forward at opportune times for us.”
Pieper said the thing she enjoys the most about playing defense is having her team rely on her in the back line. Pieper especially enjoys playing at the wing because it gives her the ability to run up the field and make plays.
One way that Pieper has stepped up as a leader during her final year at Jackson is by looking over the younger players like Croghan did for her at Ft. Zumwalt North.
“[I especially look after] the sophomore class,” Pieper said. “I had to get my license the week of dead week so I could drive a current sophomore to practice everyday. I just got so close with her and all of the other younger girls. I’m so excited about the freshman this year, too. They’re really good.”
In the classroom at Culver-Stockton, Pieper will be studying elementary education with an emphasis on special education. This is because Pieper loves working with children, and she is currently an A+ tutor.
“Being able to tutor first graders — I love being able to help little kids,” Pieper said. “Getting an emphasis in special education I know will take something else. I just think I’ve always wanted to help people who need the help the most. I’m really excited about it.”
Heading into her final season at Jackson, Pieper is excited to see how the younger talent will mix with the returning players like herself. Last year’s senior class, that Pieper became fond of, possessed a lot of talent with other players like Mikala Liley and Natalie Miller, but she’s confident the new players on the team will fill in nicely.