Fischer bounces back

Jackrabbits goalie overcomes multiple injuries to get back on field

Jake Weber, Sports Reporter

Hailee Fischer has experienced some of the lowest lows a collegiate athlete can go through. 

Multiple, severe leg injuries had kept her off the soccer field for much of her career. But despite the setbacks, she has come out on the other side of these experiences with a new mindset that is helping her achieve greatness on and off the field. 

Fischer took interest in soccer at a young age thanks to her father’s involvement in the sport. The family connections to the sport doesn’t stop there. 

While still learning the sport, Fischer found out a cousin of hers had married a professional goalkeeper, Casey Keller, who has played for the U.S. men’s national team and many clubs in Europe. Keller quickly became her inspiration, and she would end up becoming a goalkeeper. 

Now, years later, Fischer finds herself as one of two goalkeepers on a Jackrabbit soccer team that has been a dominant force in the Summit League during her career. 

While this year she has been able to help the Jackrabbits to a 7-0-2 undefeated record in the Summit League with her excellent play in between the posts, just a year ago she was kept away from the sport she loved by an injury for the entire season. 

“When it happened and I knew I was gonna be out for a long time, I was very disappointed obviously,” Fischer said. “I felt like this is unfair. I had already been at this point before.” 

Last year represented the second time she had been sidelined by a serious injury for an extended period. A lengthy injury can be frustrating for any athlete, but to experience two within a relatively short time can be crushing. But Fischer hasn’t let those setbacks affect her game.

“In the long run, I am really thankful it happened,” Fischer said. “It gave me a lot of time to think about what I want to do off the soccer field, what can I do on the soccer field to get better and be a better teammate.”

This season, Fischer has put together her best season, allowing only five goals in nine starts and posting 32 saves with a 0.865 save percentage.

When she finally returned to the field, she admitted there was anxiety over the possibility of something happening to her again. After settling back into her game, those thoughts were replaced by a feeling of gratefulness that she was able to play the sport again. 

“I’d say that every time I’m on the field now I just try to enjoy it,” the senior  majoring in early childhood education major from Hartford, said. 

That attitude hasn’t gone unnoticed by those around her either, as SDSU coach Brock Thompson points out. 

“Anytime a player goes through a significant injury, and really in Hailee’s case two in a shorter period of time, I think their perspective changes,” Thompson said. “She’s got an attitude of gratitude every time she trains and plays. She’s always got a smile on her face. Those things are contagious to her teammates too. She’s not just a great goalkeeper, she’s an incredible teammate.” 

Thompson said Fischer will always be the first to put an arm around the shoulder of a teammate. That’s something junior forward Kayla Anderson notes as well. 

“You can always tell she cares about you as a person, and she will always be there for you,” Anderson said. “She’s really solid and reliable.” 

Fischer’s strong mentality and infectious upbeat attitude aren’t limited to her time with the Jackrabbits either. 

This past year, a new women’s soccer team was founded in Sioux Falls. As technical director of Sioux Falls City Football Club, Joe DeMay said the organization was looking for locally based players to fill the new team’s roster. Fischer was high on that list. In fact, she was the first player the club ever signed, and was named the very first team captain. 

Her strength of character and ability in goal made her an easy choice to wear the armband in the club’s inaugural season. 

Fischer helped lead the club to a 4-3-1 record and fourth place finish in the Northern Conference of the WPSL. This season also included four shutouts for SFCFC. 

While Fischer isn’t done achieving with the Jackrabbits and SFCFC on the field, she is looking to help the sport of soccer grow in South Dakota once she leaves the team. She wants to take the positive outlook she has gained and use it to help coach the next generation of soccer players.

A year or more away from something you love can be harmful to anyone, let alone a Division I athlete who has spent countless hours getting to where they are. The fact that Fischer was able to use those negative experiences to help her become a better player, teammate and leader that shows the mental strength and resiliency that she possesses.