It’s a good thing Taryn Siegele is persistent. Otherwise she would have missed out on some of the best moments of her life.
After a decorated high school career in Katy, Texas, Siegele wasn’t ready to hang up her cleats as she enrolled at the University of Arizona, so she tried out for the UA soccer team in the spring of her freshman year.
Siegele fell short, but didn’t give up. She tried out again the following spring and earned a spot on the 2017 and 2018 roster.
The 5-foot-9 forward wound up appearing in 22 career games and scoring one goal for the Wildcats, heading in a long ball in a key 2-0 win over Boise State on Sept. 7, 2018. (She netted two others in a pair of exhibitions.)
After graduating last May with a degree in marketing, Siegele played professionally for FC Djursholm in Sweden for a summer. Now she is back in Texas, ready to enter the workforce as a digital marketer.
I caught up with Siegele to discuss her unique career path and her time in Sweden. Here is the Q&A, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Ryan Kelapire: How did your tryouts with Arizona soccer come about? I remember Tony Amato once saying that you were a pest.
Taryn Siegele: “I had my (freshman) orientation and I was like, ‘you know what let me just stop by the (coaches) office and talk to them about it.’ They have a summer tryout, but I had already missed it. I was like, ‘Oh, dang, that kind of stinks but is there any other tryout?’ And they’re like ‘yeah, usually we do them in the spring because the fall is so busy and we already have our team.’ So they said to come back in the spring and we can reevaluate it.
“So I didn’t really talk to them that fall very much and that spring I just pestered (Tony) so much. I emailed him, I called him and Paul (Nagy) up all the time randomly. I was leaving voicemails. I would show up to the office unannounced until I got a set date. So eventually they were like, ‘Okay, come back in a week and you can come try out.’ So yeah, I was such a pest.”
RK: Were the two tryouts different?
TS: “Definitely different. The first tryout I remember I did one fitness test and I did pretty well on it. And then the next day, Tony had me come out to the field. I did one practice and that was pretty much it. The second tryout was a lot longer. It was like two and a half weeks of training with the team. I went to the weight room with them, I did a whole bunch more.
“So I think the second time [the coaches] took it more seriously. They were telling me that they thought that sometimes girls just want to wear the name of being on the soccer team, whereas I actually just wanted to play.”
RK: Why didn’t you give up after the first tryout?
TS: “I knew I could do it the whole time. I just think the first time I let my nerves get the best of me. And then the second time, I was like, OK, I’m just gonna leave it all out there so I know I did my best and (if I didn’t make the team) it just wasn’t made out for me. They were all so welcoming from the start but that whole spring was never guaranteed. There was never really an okay-you’ve made-it moment. It was just, ‘okay, you made it to the next week.’
“And then once I reported back in June for preseason it was like, ‘okay, I can take a little bit of a breath. I’m here for the fall. I’m here for this season, at least.”’
RK: Is it true that when you weren’t on the team, you used to watch Arizona’s games from the stands?
TS: “Yeah, because I wanted to see how they play, especially for my position. Do they like more of a defensive forward? Do they want this forward more up top? It was just kind of trying to evaluate what they like in the position that I was playing, and just to see if I can even play at this level. It was putting my best foot forward so during tryouts I know better, I’m more prepared.”
RK: What was your favorite moment of your career?
TS: “I would definitely say my first goal was definitely on the top of it. I didn’t play that much, so just even to get a goal in and have it recognized was huge. And the friendships really were so amazing. If I didn’t make the team, I would never have these lifelong friends. It was such a good experience.”
RK: What do you miss most about the UA?
TS: “I just miss living with all my friends. I was literally down the street from Lainey (Burdett) and Ken (Kieneker) and Hailey (Mazzola). And then Kelcey (Cavarra) and Sam (Falasco), we would always go over to each other’s houses. Me and Lainey literally cooked dinner every night together. And now we all live in different states...so we don’t ever get to see each other anymore. ... And yeah, I miss the weather. It’s so humid in Texas. I miss the dry heat. Arizona was just an amazing school. I’m so glad I got to go there.”
RK: How did the opportunity to play in Sweden come about?
TS: “It’s so random. I got home from graduating in June and I was on this summer league team but it was just for fun. ... And my coach was talking to international coaches, and I guess he just brought up my name to one of them and sent them film and it kind of just snowballed from there. At the time I had an internship, so I was like, ‘do I leave this internship?’ This was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It happened so fast. I got the offer, I talked to my parents about it, and about a week later I hopped on a plane.”
RK: Why did you decide to go to Sweden?
TS: “All that hard work, and you have such a love and respect for the game, I don’t think I was ready to let it go completely. And again, it was such a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. I don’t think I would ever have the opportunity to go to Sweden for free and have everything paid for. I told the people at my internship, and they’re like, ‘oh my gosh go. Don’t even worry about it.’ I had only been there for a month and I felt kinda bad leaving. If they were more like, ‘oh, you just got here,’ I probably wouldn’t have gone. So the support from my parents and my work pushed me, and it all kind of just fell into place.”
RK: What was that experience like?
TS: “They paid for an apartment for me and I stayed with another American. We stayed in Stockholm, so we went into the city a lot and it was so beautiful. And I did learn a lot about Swedish culture. There’s a thing called fika, and it’s where you take a break to drink coffee with friends. It was just amazing and it’s kind of funny because their style of soccer was so much different than American style.”
RK: How is it so different?
TS: “They’re definitely way more aggressive. I was shocked at first because they rarely call any fouls. And the first couple times I got shoved over expecting it to be a foul, but, no, play on. And I would say they’re definitely more like, ‘go score, go score, go score.’ They don’t really build from the back, whereas at Arizona we kind of try to build up and not force it up all the time. So it was crazy and it was really fun.”
RK: You had offers to play in Italy and Ireland, so why not keep playing?
TS: “Sweden was such an amazing experience, but I got lucky because I had a fellow American with me. So even though it’s a hard adjustment, I was doing it with somebody else. Ireland and Italy would have been completely by myself. And if I wanted to make a career out of it, I think I would have pursued it more, but it’s time to start building my career as a businesswoman, not as a soccer player.”
RK: What can someone learn from your story?
TS: “If you just really want to go for something, go all the way. I worked out every day and I played on the club team. Don’t make an excuse and be like ‘I have no one to practice with.’ No, go join a local team. Don’t make any excuses for yourself because no one else is going to make that excuse for you. And if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to. Only you can really tell yourself you’re not good enough. So not even just soccer but in life, keep trying really hard. Hard work always pays off.”
This article is part of an ongoing Q&A series that will highlight former UA student-athletes. The rest of the editions are linked below. If you are a former UA student-athlete and would like to participate, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter at @RKelapire.