CHARLESTON, S.C. - From walking on the roster in 2013 to earning a scholarship, Ally Gerthoffer has seen her hard work pay off as she heads into her senior season with the Charleston Southern women's soccer team this year.
The lone Charleston native on the team, Gerthoffer wasn't sure coming out of high school if she was going to pursue a collegiate career. She debated back and forth between going to a few schools, but ultimately chose CSU following a good year in her senior season at West Ashley High School.
"I originally didn't want to play soccer," she said. "However, my senior year I had a really good year and I felt like I needed to keep going. My mom was the person who kept pushing me to try and give it another shot."
Gerthoffer attended one of CSU's Summer ID clinics held on the CSU Soccer Field where the coaching staff was able to get their first look at her. From her tryout, Head Coach Eric Terrill thought she would fit in with the program successfully.
"Ally tried out four years ago and we thought she had good size, was athletic, and worth having an opportunity to bring into the program," he said. "Really, she's been nothing but a blessing for us. She has worked progressively harder and has gotten more confident with herself. She's a kid you like having in the program because she's a hard worker, has a great attitude, and really does whatever you need her to do."
The process of Gerthoffer joining the CSU Soccer Team four years ago was a little bit of an adjustment as she entered the program not sure of anyone and unsure of what she was getting into. The fitness tests in particular were something she was a little apprehensive about.
"When Coach Terrill called me after the clinic and said I could try to come onto the team, it was a huge commitment and made me realize how much I wanted to play college soccer," she admitted. "I found out about the fitness tests before we came in and I hadn't been training for those, so it was really rough at first. I didn't know anybody at first and it was just interesting and rough."
Fellow senior and roommate Lydia Frierson also remembered Gerthoffer's first camp with the team and the adjustments that she had to make.
Frierson reflected, "The first day of preseason freshman year, we didn't know who Ally was because all five of us coming in had been talking all summer. I remember after the first impression though, telling my mom that I thought Ally and I would be friends, and sure enough, we are."
She continued, "Ally came in not knowing about the fitness tests and was scared and nervous, but now she's one of the best leaders on the team. Watching how she's grown as a player and watching how she's grown fitness-wise and just the confidence she brings to the table is completely different now."
The growth and confidence in Gerthoffer, as well as the improvements in physicality and fitness, were enough for Coach Terrill to offer her a scholarship.
He was proud of the fact with her development and hard work and looks forward to it paying dividends heading into her senior year.
"With any walk-on that earns a scholarship, you have to be pretty proud of that fact," he said. "There's a couple of girls on the team right now that have done the same thing. With Ally, the strides she's made and her development and confidence has really helped her grow. She should be very proud of what she's done."
Also proud of Gerthoffer's improvements was her mother who often attends CSU Soccer games, traveling to both home and away contests over the past four years.
"It was amazing," she said on receiving the offer. "My mom was crazy happy and so proud of me! I really wasn't expecting it because I didn't know if I had given enough. I still wasn't playing a lot at the time, but I practiced hard. When it happened, I was very surprised and very blessed."
With the addition of the scholarship offer early in her career, Gerthoffer has also seen a shift in her personality and her goals. She has seen her own growth change as personal goals have given way to team success over the past four years.
"I would say I've been growing up and maturing over the past few years," she commented. "Freshman year you come in and have the feeling it's all about you and your playing time, and all the stuff you are doing. Now I see myself more about what I can do for the team. Of course I want to play, but I also want to make it fun for everyone else and not as stressful as I know it can be. I definitely want to make the best out of the last semester I've got."
The last three seasons with the CSU Soccer program have also had their moments of laughter for Gerthoffer and the Bucs and she mentioned several things she had learned throughout the years.
"The biggest thing I've noticed is the range of personalities we have on the team," she laughed. "Everyone is so different! The northern girls and the southern girls, I can just see how different we are with our backgrounds and how we all grew up. The range of stories and culture is just fascinating."
Not to be outdone, Frierson also reflected on several stories she has about Gerthoffer that showcases the humor and passion of her teammate.
"I have so many stories, funny stories," Frierson said with a smile. "One of my favorite memories of Ally is her love of animals; she loves dogs. One time she was watching this video about a dog jumping on a trampoline and was just dying laughing and trying to get me to watch it with her."
"You can also see her passion on the field," she continued. "Ally is always flying and always on the ground during preseason, pushing herself to get better. She's probably one of the fastest people on the team, and on one of our speed tests she was dribbling and literally dove head-first over the line to be first on the test. It just shows her competitive spirit and drive out there on the field."
The competitiveness and drive have always been a part of Gerthoffer's personality since she first laced up the cleats when she was five years old.
"I actually got into soccer when I had some friends that joined this soccer team when I was five," she said. "I remember my first day of practice, putting my shin guards on over my socks, which is funny looking back at it."
"Soccer just is competitive and that's one of the reasons I love it," she continued. "The competition and the level of contact is a lot of fun. I did try to play basketball once upon a time, but knew pretty early that wasn't for me. It's always been soccer."
The first thing Gerthoffer worked through when she joined the Bucs' roster was dealing with her first preseason camp. The rigorous physical testing and fitting in with new teammates led to a number of adjustments for herself that made it difficult at times through her first year.
The love of the game has been a draw for both Gerthoffer and her teammates with Frierson adding more about her teammate.
"Ally and I have been been roommates for the last few years, and it's been amazing," she said. "For me, she is someone I can always go and talk soccer with. We literally could talk soccer for hours! She's just always been my teammate and always had my back. She's probably my closest friend on the team and I'm just super thankful to have her the last few years."
Following her playing career, Gerthoffer is looking forward to taking the next steps in her life as she pursues her goal of going to P.A. school.
"I'm a Kinesiology student here at CSU and I'm on track to graduate," she said. "I'm going to be missing a few pre-requisite classes to go into P.A. school, and still have a few classes to take with my degree. After this year is over, I'll try to take the classes I need and try to get an internship. I'd love to work my way into a job somewhere in the medical field."
The Bucs open the 2017 regular season this upcoming weekend at Jacksonville on Friday night. Kickoff at Southern Oak Stadium is set for 7 p.m.