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Saxony Lutheran soccer’s Anna Mueller officially signs with Jefferson College

On July 25, Saxony Lutheran 2023 graduate Anna Mueller officially signed her national letter of intent with Jefferson College to continue her soccer career. Pictured in the front row from left to right: Brian Mueller (father), Anna Mueller and Michelle Mueller (mother). Back row: Saxony head coach Chris Crawford, Saxony assistant coach Garrett Fritsche, Jefferson College head coach Luke Schlichting and Saxony assistant coach Andrew Lysell. Photo by Jay Forness

After leading the Saxony Lutheran girls soccer team to a third-place finish in the Class 1 Final Four to cap her high school career, Crusaders 2023 graduate Anna Mueller thought her playing days were over.

Mueller was actually set to attend Southeast Missouri State to solely focus on academics before Jefferson College women’s soccer head coach Luke Schlichting offered her to play for him in late June.

Anna, who has been playing soccer since first grade, actually considered playing college soccer during her final season. After Coach Schlichting reached out to her about playing at Jeffco, Mueller knew she’d immediately regret it if she had denied his offer.

“I thought [state] was my last time coming off the field, and I wasn’t quite ready for that,” Mueller explained. “I started to process everything, and then I got this opportunity. Knowing I get to go back out on the field and play the sport I love is just awesome.”

Jeffco’s women’s soccer team will be returning this fall after not having a season last year, so their coach is entrusting a player and leader like Mueller with being able to help rebuild the program. Anna is no stranger to this as she helped Saxony’s girls soccer team go from only winning four games her first year to reaching the state final four for the first time in seven years.

“That’s a huge responsibility first of all, and that’s also just a huge honor to be able to be contacted and know that I can be there and rebuild that program,” Mueller said. “The big thing is having team chemistry and communication out on the field and throughout the program — making sure you have that bond with your teammates. Whenever you have team chemistry off the field, you’re going to have it on the field, too. I think that’s just a good start for the program.”

While Mueller now has two more years to keep playing the sport she loves, she’ll definitely be keeping her options open to continue playing at a four-year university should the chance arise. Anna didn’t actually develop her love for soccer to what it is now until she was a Crusader because she actually considered not playing at Saxony.

“I went to our first couple practices, and I started to love it,” Mueller said. “I loved our team atmosphere and our culture, and then we lost a bunch of people my freshman year, so we were super young. I had to step in along with some of the other girls even though I was only a sophomore.”

This made Anna step up as a leader, who has actually been one of Saxony’s team captains ever since her sophomore year. Mueller and the Crusaders didn’t have a soccer season her freshman year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced MSHSAA to cancel the 2020 spring sports season.

While some athletes might be deterred from such a task of being a team captain as an underclassman, Mueller welcomed it as it actually fueled her passion for soccer. Anna was told she would have to earn the respect of her older teammates with such a title in what was her first-ever varsity season.

“They obviously had more experience than I did in the program, so that was big for me going in that season to earn their respect,” Mueller recalled. “I went out there and made sure what I was saying was positive reinforcement to encourage — just be happy out there.

“I was always sort of the one who was always goofy out on the field, so that’s a big part of it. Letting the girls know that we need to have fun while we’re still out there playing, but whenever the job is there to be done, we need to get focused and need to do it. Leading is about setting a good example.”

In her final season, Mueller helped the Crusaders record eight total shutouts as one of their starting outside backs on defense. Anna was rightfully named as one of Saxony’s five Class 1 All-State selections as fellow defender and to-be senior Maci Hollis also earned all-state.

One of the ways Mueller has been able to improve over the course of her high school career to become an all-state player is by having the ability to use more than one of her feet.

“When I first came to Saxony, I would only want to use my left foot — that’s the only thing I would do, which is opposite of most players,” Anna said. “Coach [Chris] Crawford joked, ‘We’re gonna have to cut your left foot off if you don’t start using your right one.’ Just progressing with using my right foot has been huge for me. My foot work overall has improved a lot, too.”

Mueller will continue being a defender at Jeffco as it’s actually the only position she wants to play even though most players want the glory of scoring goals. Why Anna primarily wants to play defense is because of the way she’s able to play.

“You get to be really aggressive back there and that’s another thing I’ve improved on,” she noted. “When I first got here, I was smaller and shorter. I got into the routine of working out, which made me stronger. Now that I’m out there I can compete a lot better being stronger.”

Mueller, who stands at 5-foot-6, says even though she’s a smaller player that you can’t be scared and have to play with aggression. She credits her high school coaches Crawford, Garrett Fritsche and Andrew Lysell for being able to play soccer at the next level.

“Not even as just a player but just as an individual, too,” Anna noted. “They primarily would tell me how to lead out there, and I knew what they expected out of me, so I take that from other coaches, too.”

When Mueller was first thinking about attending SEMO as only a student, she was actually excited about “finally” having time to not do anything. However, that’s not the type of person Anna has become as she was a three-sport athlete for her entire career at Saxony.

In the fall, Mueller helped the Crusaders volleyball win their first district championship her sophomore year as their libero. Saxony went on to three-peat this past school year, where Mueller also helped the Crusaders record their most wins in program history (26). Anna was also a member of Saxony’s basketball team the past four years.

“I know college is a little bit more, but I’m capable of managing sports and my studies,” Mueller said. “Studies are huge for me, so I don’t want to just throw those aside. I want to make those a priority as well.”

In the classroom, Anna will be studying communication disorders to become a speech language pathologist. Mueller is interested in this field because her grandfather once had a stroke. This led him to work with speech therapists one-on-one, which Anna saw first hand and has ever since been motivated to help others in the same way.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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