Protecting the Goal

Meet senior biology major Ashley Limmer. She set records this season, becoming best goalkeeper in Viking soccer history.

Augustana Coach Brandon Barkus’ persistence was the key to signing the best goalkeeper in Viking soccer history.

Prior to her graduation from Brandon Valley High School, Ashley Limmer planned visits to multiple colleges, including most members of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). Augustana was not on her list.

“Augustana is so close to home I really didn’t give it much thought,” Limmer said, “but Barkus was my club coach and kept pushing me to at least visit.”

Eventually Limmer relented and made the short drive from her home in Brandon, South Dakota, to Augustana’s campus. For Barkus, it was mission accomplished.

“Strong academics are the first thing I look for in a recruit,” Barkus said.

An excellent student, Limmer passed the grades test. Next, did she meet the physical requirements to compete at the college level?

“Unlike some teams, we use our goaltender all the time,” Barkus said. “Ashley’s athleticism and ability to use her feet were so impressive I started recruiting her in the fall of her junior year in high school.”

After her visit, Limmer was sold on Augustana. It was the ideal setting to hone her soccer skills while pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

“The coaching staff is great, the professors amazing, and the team awesome,” she said. “I didn’t see all this coming together at any other school, and I’m really glad I came to Augie. No regrets.”

As for the time and effort Barkus invested in signing Limmer … well, the payoff was huge:

The senior biology major is the Vikings’ all-time winning goalie with 26 victories.

She is the first goalie in team history to post a winning record for a career (26-20-1).

Her 14 wins in 2014 is the most by an Augustana goalkeeper in a single season. She tied the school record for career solo shutouts with 10. She was the NSIC Player of the Week for Sept. 22, 2014, by recording a career-high nine saves against 10th-ranked Winona State and five more against Upper Iowa.

Not to be overlooked was her durability. Limmer became the starting goalkeeper midway through her sophomore season. In 2013 she was in goal for all 1,769 minutes the Vikings were in action. She came close to going the distance in 2014 but had to leave the field against Minnesota State after taking a blow to the head defending a breakaway.

So, did the four-year starter and team captain for the Brandon Valley Lynx meet Barkus’ expectations?

“She exceeded them,” said Barkus, himself a goalkeeper at Benedictine College.

“In addition to what she accomplished on the field, she grew as a communicator. She developed as a leader, which has been outstanding.”

Barkus, named 2014 NSIC Coach of the Year, pieced together a strong team featuring veterans and promising newcomers. Senior Payton Pry and junior Stephanie Stevens were chosen to the All-NSIC first team. Limmer was joined on the second team by senior Emily Hanneman and first-year forward Samantha Arnold, who was also tabbed the league’s Freshman of the Year. The Vikings’ 14-6 record for 2014 is the best in program history.

“This season was really cool,” Limmer said. “It’s great to see how far the program has come in the last four years. We had a good mix of older players to go with a group of younger players, who brought a lot of energy and provided a spark. There’s always excitement at the beginning of the season but this year was different. We had a great spring and the team really connected.

“The freshmen arrived in the fall and really added to the excitement.”

Limmer is on track to graduate in May.

After the soccer season she began working at All Animal Pet Hospital in Sioux Falls while awaiting word on graduate school.

“I’ve applied to four schools,” she said. “It’s really competitive but hopefully I’ll get in. I’ve always known I wanted to be a vet and I would prefer to work outside as opposed to a clinic setting. I would like to treat and rehab animals and then release them into the wild.”

It appears Ashley Limmer was destined to be a protector.