Senior Melanie Pickert brings a leadership element to the team, something difficult to replace.
One of the captains on the Hawkeye soccer team and a key defender on its vaunted defense, Melanie Pickert has this practice off, resting and preparing for the rigors of the weekend ahead.
Normally, the senior’s hands would not be in her coat pockets and the serious expression on her face would be directed downfield, watching opponents set up their offensive attack.
This day, however, that face is processing a question about the very limited number of games left in her storied career.
“The whole experience has been about taking it one game at a time, making the most of it, leaving it all on the field,” Pickert says. “I’m trying to set an example for the younger kids, for them to keep motivating and pushing and really to just have the senior class go out on a good note.”
That response summarizes Pickert’s career in a nutshell. Always looking forward to what’s next and bringing people along with her for the ride.
It is the mark of a good leader but also of a good friend — something that redshirt senior Katie Nasenbenny has often noticed in the years the two have been friends.
“She’s such a genuine person, and not that she doesn’t care what other people think of her, but she’ll do what she thinks is right, regardless of what’s popular,” said Nasenbenny. “I think a lot of people respect her for that on the team.
“She always thinks about other people, and that carries over to her play on the field; she’s always trying to make peoples jobs easier.”
As Nasenbenny says, Pickert lives to make the other player’s jobs a bit easier on the field. Watching any Iowa game, her voice can often clearly be made out over the general din of the crowd.
Sometimes she’s making adjustments, other times they’re simply words of encouragement to her teammates.
It would not be a stretch to call her a coach on the field, and she has absolutely gained the confidence of her teammates and coaches.
“She’s a soccer mind, she likes watching video, she likes to watch the game, and watch her opponents,” head coach Dave DiIanni said. “I think she’s somebody who can play at the highest level; we’re trying to get her into the U-23 National Team camp, and we’ll find out that later on.”
The idea of playing at the next level is something that has been on Pickert’s mind recently.
She spent part of the summer in Canada practicing for the coming season, and the dream and allure of playing at a higher level is certainly in her heart.
“I was gearing up pretty well for the season, but since then, some things have happened, and I haven’t been able to practice as much as I would have liked,” Pickert said. “I wanted to play pro, and I still want to — I would love to have the opportunity to do that.
“It’s still part of my dream, but if not, I want to go to grad school for occupational therapy.”
When Pickert bids adieu after the Hawks’ final game this year — whether that be in the Big Ten tournament or in the NCAAs, she will leave a lot of good things behind.
The respect that her teammates have for “Mel,’ as she is affectingly nicknamed, is profound.
“She’s probably one of the hardest workers on the team and one of the hardest workers anywhere, on any team, in any sport,” Nasenbenny said. “You can just see it — she grinds for everything in practice, and when it comes down to it, is just a really good person.”