Anika Kallash earned a Second Team All-American honor in the fall 2019 season playing soccer for Central Methodist University (CMU).
But Kallash said that the honor is really more of a reflection of how the team worked and played together as a whole rather than just an individual commendation.
“It wasn’t just me. It was my entire team. The work that we put in this year was absolutely amazing,” Kallash said.
Kallash graduated from Troy Buchanan High School in 2017. While at Troy, she helped the Trojans win their district back-to-back, her junior and senior years.
When Kallash and fellow CMU, Eagle Elly Boothe (originally from Silex), were fourteen years old, they got moved up to the 18-year-old league.
Kallsh said that getting moved to an older age group played a big role in her development as a player.
“I learned a lot faster. I learned things a lot faster, because staying at your level, it slowed me down from learning and finding my ability to do the things that I can do. I think playing up played a huge role in where I am today. Especially the coaches were amazing. They taught me a lot about soccer and helped me love the sport,” Kallash said.
Her current team, the CMU Eagles, didn’t lose a game all season, and only went out of the national tournament on a penalty shoot-out after a game that went through regular and extra time at a draw.
That was a quarterfinal game against Eastern Oregon.
“We ended the season with 22 wins and a tie: no losses. When we got to the Sweet Sixteen, ultimately we did lose but it’s still considered a tie,” Kallash said.
Kallash’s, and her teammates’, hard work led to big things this season.
“We worked our butts off and it really showed because this is the farthest we’ve ever been in the national tournament, we won our regular conference. We were champions of our conference and then we won our conference tournament,” Kallash said. “We had so much success this year because off the field and on the field we are very, very close. We know each and every teammate and we’re all a big family. It’s awesome because there are girls from Brazil, girls from Spain, girls from Germany and it’s just amazing.”
Truly aware of what leads to success and with a deep appreciation for every moving part, Kallash understands everything that it takes to reach success, both personally and collectively as a team.
This is why she captains her team and why she found such good form to lead her team.
“Without the hard work of everybody, and not just the starters, but everybody on the bench as well, because they were a huge part of the team, like a support system and when they did come on they filled a big hole. So, it was just really, really great effort from everyone on the team, not just one person,” Kallash said.
Kallash plays as a center forward for the Eagles, which is the furthest forward player, the one that is tasked with scoring the goals.
And scoring was something Kallash did a lot of this season, with an astounding 34 goals, complimented by 13 assists.
Kallash finished the season ranked fifth in points and fifth in top goals in the country, within her division, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Kallash set the goal for herself at the beginning of the season to be in the conversation for the All-American lists, but admitted that even getting a mention would have been outstanding. So when she discovered that she had been picked, she was ecstatic.
“It was just amazing. It really was amazing because I worked my tail off this season and that was one of my major goals, to be an All-American. I thought I was going to get a mention but the fact that I got Second Team is absolutely outstanding. I am really proud of myself, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my team,” Kallash said.
Heading into her senior year, Kallash has just as big, if not bigger, goals for herself and for her team.
“We achieved the majority of our goals this year and we are so happy, but next year, I am definitely going to do my best to attempt to break my scoring record of 34 goals, which will be very difficult. But I am going to do my best at it. We are going to try and win our conference, we are going to try to win our conference tournament and, ultimately, yes, we are going to try to win nationals,” Kallash said.
Kallash said that her favorite player is Argentinian Lionel Messi, because of how hard he works on the field and how humble of a player he is.
And as far as some role models go, her parents were first on the mind.
“They’ve both come to every single game and they’re my biggest fans. I am so grateful. They’ve come to Iowa, they drove down to Alabama for one game. To have them there for me is absolutely amazing and I hope to do that for my kids someday,” Kallash said.
She added, “Our assistant coach Mariana, who is from Brazil, and my coach Dan Schmidlin. They’ve both done so much for the team. Mary, she’s been here for two years and she has taught me so many things about the game of soccer and she has helped me in some tough times. Coach Dan [has] as well. They do so much for the team and it’s truly amazing.”
Kallash is studying healthcare administration at CMU, but if everything goes according to her plan, that will be the safety net, the backup plan. But from the sound of it and the proof of the on-field drive and work ethic, that may not be a plan that needs exploring for a while.
“I do actually plan on trying to play professionally. I don’t know where yet. I need to look into it with the coaching staff at CMU and some of my past coaches because they have some connections with some people and get a video made and send it out to make some tryouts. Ultimately, that would be amazing and I would absolutely love it. We’ll see what happens in the future,” Kallash said.
Kallash is a shining example of where a little drive, hard work, dedication, focus and passion can get you.
“Don’t question your abilities. Always try to do your best and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Try new things and attempt things that you think are impossible because you never know unless you try,” Kallash said.