Melink jumps on chance to play forward
That came in a 5-0 win in IU’s home opener Aug. 25 against Georgia Southern, a team that was coming off an NCAA tournament appearance. She helped spark the offense with a header off of a 40-yard cross in the ninth minute to give IU the lead.
Later in the second half, Melink added an assist to junior Jordan Woolums with a cross from the right side. Then, she placed another ball past a defender to find junior Kristin Leist for another goal.
The game was statistically Melink’s best of her career as a Hoosier — a breakthrough game. The former defender was playing her natural position at forward and was making an immediate impact on the field. In a postgame interview, one word seemed to stand out.
“I just needed to stay patient,” Melink said after the game. “We created a lot of width and were able to attack.”
Patience was the key for Melink. Her father taught her that patience could eventually help her succeed, like she has this season after breaking into the starting lineup.
“My dad really instilled within me how much success you can get from working hard and sticking with something that you love,” Melink said. “At the beginning of my career, I wasn’t playing as much as I’d like and I knew that if I kept working at it, I would eventually find better results.”
She was first exposed to IU in 2008 when she came to the campus for a soccer camp. Not only did she impress the coaching staff, but she was named MVP of the camp, which she said helped her in her decision to play college soccer.
“The camp was a great experience,” Melink said. “Just seeing how well the team worked together and how involved the players were, it gave me the confidence that I could play at a Division I school. It opened up my options and made me work even harder to get out on the field.”
Melink was redshirted her freshman year and saw limited action in her first year playing as a sophomore. Last season she spent the year playing out of position on the defensive side of the ball, but proved her commitment to the position and impressed
her new coaching staff.
“Her commitment has shown,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “She has been at a number of positions in her time here that she was not necessarily used to focusing on.”
Melink started every game last season as a defender. It was not her natural position, but she said she believes the experience made her a better player from simply guarding against the position she was used to playing.
“I learned so much,” Melink said. “I had never really been in the back line, but I was able to learn how the back line works, and how it transitions to the rest of the field. Defending forward and watching what runs they made and how they got to the ball really helped my understanding of how to play the position and learn what works.”
After spending the year playing on defense, Melink got the opportunity to win a starting spot on the offense. Berbary said she was impressed with the way Melink was focused on earning this spot.
“It is unbelievable,” Berbary said. “When we left for summer I knew that Monica was focused and was ready to come back here to play. I couldn’t have told you she was going to start for us. For her to come in fit and ready and to win that starting spot and to actually produce has been incredible.”
Her play has caught her teammates’ attention, including IU’s returning point scorer from last year, Lisa Nouanesengsy.
Along with the influence she is making on the field, Melink has proven herself in the classroom. She was one of 56 student athletes to record a 3.7 or higher grade point average last year while studying at the Kelley School of Business.
Melink has had to find a balance between her schoolwork and soccer. She uses both to motivate her and pick her up when she struggles.
“There are times when I’m not doing as well on the field when I say I need to be pushing myself and be winning in something, and that just pushes me in school,” she said. “If I have a bad day on the field then that really pushes me in the classroom.
When I am doing well in the classroom it just pushes me to do even better on the field.“
As a fourth year junior, Melink has stepped into a leadership position on the team.
“Monica is a quiet leader,” Berbary said. “She doesn’t say much, but when she does, people listen. She shows her leadership at practice whether she says anything or not.”
Melink said she does not feel the need to be a vocal leader, but instead tries to lead through her actions.
“I just think you need to act like you want everyone else to act,” Melink said. “It is not always necessary to yell at everyone. Instead, you just need to lead by example.”
Berbary said she stresses the importance of finding players with good character when she recruits. Although Berbary was not part of the process to recruit Melink, Berbary said Melink has been just the type of player she wanted.
“In recruiting, I have learned over the years that you can’t only recruit the best players, you need to go after the ones with the best character,” Berbary said. “It could be the next coming of Abby Wambach, but if she does not do all the right things off the field and on the field, then we can’t have her part of our program. Monica is the epitome of that. She does all the right things on the field and off the field.”
Melink has not been able to find the back of the net since her breakthrough game against Georgia Southern, but she will be out on the field again this weekend — being patient, waiting for her chance.
“I always like finding and creating opportunities for myself and other players on the field,” Melink said. “You obviously have to love the game in order to stick with it, but the team makes that easier.”