By Scott Taylor
For the Bugle
In the era of specialization, especially for female athletes, Plainfield Central’s Erin Graefen has bucked that trend the past four years, playing four years of varsity basketball and soccer.
And with Graefen being a future Division-I soccer player, it would have been easy for her to stop playing basketball her senior year.
Instead, she played both sports, leading the hoops team in points and the soccer team in goals scored.
“Basketball allowed me a break from soccer,” Graefen said. “Coach (Gregg) Bayer made it easy for me. It gives me the opportunity to do something different with different people. I was able to represent the school in a different way. I was able to stay in shape and it was good conditioning. Basketball is more of an upper body sport, while soccer is more of a lower body sport. I was able to get stronger, which has helped me out. It was a lot of fun.”
Both seniors nights for Graefen ended the same way, with dramatic overtime victories. In basketball, it took double overtime, while the soccer game was decided in a shootout, with both games going to the Wildcats.
“Those are the games I will remember most,” Graefen said. “Winning both of those games meant so much more than I can put into words. It was good to go out with wins.”
In soccer, Graefen has been the go-to player for much of her career.
“Every year has been different,” she said. “There have been challenges and successes. I gained something different every year. I learned how to compete with girls three years older than me my freshman year and this year I have learned to compete with girls three years younger than me. It is a blessing. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
A lot of time on the field as led to a good deal of improvement the past four years for Graefen.
“I have learned how to push myself and achieve goals,” she said. “I have improved my skill and have been able to try different things and create different opportunities.”
Among those different opportunities was the ability to play a different position.
In club, she tends to play center mid, while for Central she has played a lot of forward, in addition to some midfield and even a time at goalie this year.
“It has definitely allowed me to see the game at all angles,” Graefen said. “I got to go up against different players. It was a blast playing goalie.”
Graefen has been able to put her mark on the program and hopefully start a trend of Division-I athletes that the Wildcats had in the late 2000s.
“This year we were a very young team, but I see the potential in a lot of younger players,” she said. “If they push themselves, they can raise the bar of the soccer program.
Graefen will be moving on to Dayton, Ohio, where she will be playing soccer for Wright State in the Horizon League.
“I went there going into sophomore year and every place I went to after that hasn’t been able to live up to how I felt there,” she said. “I feel comfortable there. The coaching staff is what I was looking for and I loved all the girls on the team that I met on my official visit.”
While Graefen has big plans for the future, her time at Plainfield Central will not be overlooked.
“I am extremely proud,” she said. “I’ve had some great achievements and it was a blessing to represent the school. We weren’t always the most successful teams, but we always played for the school, coaches and teammates. It is sad to leave, but I am grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way.