By Schuyler EasterlingSeven-hundred and fifty-six miles separate the suburbs of Chicago, IL and the raucous gameday atmosphere roaring about Historic Riggs Field in Clemson, SC. But for senior standout Heather Marik, the long drive from home to Clemson has been a drive of destiny.
The 5’9″ defender from Naperville, IL has been the epitome of consistent success from the moment she stepped on campus in the fall of 2009. When reflecting on Marik’s soccer career, it becomes evident why she has developed into one of Clemson’s most prominent players during her time in Tigertown.
For Marik, soccer became a central part of life at an early age. “I started playing soccer when I was about three or four years old. We had just moved to a different suburb of Chicago and my mom got my older sister involved with soccer. A lot of my sister’s teammates had younger siblings my age and we would all watch our sisters play together.
“Finally, the parents got to talking and said, ‘Hey, why not let them go play?’ That was my first experience with soccer. We started really young, but I instantly loved it. I grew up with soccer, got to know the ins-and-outs of the game well, and completely fell in love with the game.
“When I started getting older, we competed against boys’ teams because our team got better and better. Soccer became something that I always saw myself doing and I never questioned it. It’s something I have always had fun doing.”
As Marik continued to make soccer a priority in her life, she began to garner national attention for her natural ability and gritty play on the pitch. Accolades, awards, U-15 and U-16 National Team Camp offers, and championships began to pour in for Marik. With her outstanding success, she began to garner college recruitment offers, but Clemson had yet to extend any interest and the school had not even crossed Marik’s mind.
“During high school, I wasn’t really too familiar with Clemson,” she admitted. “I knew of the university, but not much about it. There was a soccer showcase being held in my hometown and I knew Clemson was coming to scout some of the athletes. I sent the coaches an email letting them know I heard they were coming and that I would enjoy playing in front of them.
“The coaches watched me play, and shortly afterwards, Clemson began recruiting me. I decided to make a visit to Clemson and the moment I stepped on campus I immediately fell in love with the school.
“When you step on a campus for the first time, some people don’t experience the feeling that you’re destined to be there. I was the exact opposite. As soon as I got to Clemson, I thought to myself, ‘I’m here…now I want to stay’.”
Once she set foot onto campus as a freshman, Marik instantly began to prove herself as a reliable player. Between the fall of 2009, when Marik first arrived in Tigertown, and the September 1, 2012 showdown with rival South Carolina, Clemson played 59 matches. Marik holds the remarkable distinction of starting 57 of those matches as a defender on Clemson’s back line.
In 2010, Marik further distinguished herself by scoring four goals, being named Clemson’s Defensive MVP, and logging 1,651 minutes of playing time, more than any other Tiger that season. In 2011, she continued to be a force while netting two goals and scoring the game-winning goal against The Citadel. For the 2012 campaign, Clemson and Marik are aiming for greater success in the always-tough ACC.
After the conclusion of this soccer season, Marik will graduate with a degree in management and will have the unique privilege of becoming a Clemson alumnus. Upon leaving Tigertown, Marik hopes to find a job in supply chain management or compliance near her home area.
“I believe that a Clemson education and my time here as a student-athlete has definitely prepared me for success in the real world,” said Marik. “On top of the great education I have received in the classroom, athletics has taught me a lot. The qualities of teamwork, dedication, hard work, and leadership have become a central part of my life by being a Clemson athlete.
“Coming to Clemson forced me to rise to the challenge and excel on the field playing in one of the nation’s best conferences while also excelling in the classroom at one of the nation’s best universities. I believe that all I’ve learned here has really prepared me for success in the future.”
Although 756 miles may soon again separate Marik and Tigertown, her stellar career and consistent play will continue to live on and contribute to the rich tradition that defines Clemson women’s soccer.
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