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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Drake soccer alum Laura Riesenbeck signs with Austrian pro team

Laura+Riesenbeck+in+her+Drake+warmup+kit.
Laura Riesenbeck played a team-high 1,619 minutes for the Bulldogs in their 2023 season. Photo by Reily Rogers | Courtesy of Drake Athletics communications

Laura Riesenbeck, a former Drake women’s soccer defender, has signed a contract with SK Sturm Graz in Austria’s Women’s ÖFB Frauen-Bundesliga, the top level of women’s soccer in Germany. Sturm Graz is an Austrian professional football club based in Graz, Austria. 

Riesenbeck explained that she had reached out to a German agency this past December to inquire about playing professional soccer. Shortly thereafter, Sturm Graz, who were in contact with the agency, was in need of a center back for the rest of their season. 

“It went all very quick, but with the help of my coaches at Drake and my advisor, I have been able to manage everything so that I could sign the contract and also finish my degree which was a priority for me,” Riesenbeck said. 

Despite arriving in Austria just over a week ago, Riesenbeck is already working with the team and is expecting to play sooner rather than later. 

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“In Austria, like most of Europe, the season is year-round, which means that the team has already been in preseason for about six to seven weeks,” Riesenbeck said. “I [had] just gotten here almost a week ago but was already able to get a few practice sessions in with the team and played about 30 minutes at a scrimmage.”

Riesenbeck’s signing comes in the wake of her incredible defensive campaign with the Bulldogs this past season. In that campaign, Riesenbeck started in all 20 Drake games and was rarely taken off the field, logging 1,619 minutes (a team high) over the course of the season. 

Before her single season with the Bulldogs in 2023, Riesenbeck played with Central Methodist University. In her four years with Central Methodist, Riesenbeck was a three-time defensive conference player of the year (Heart of America Athletic Conference) and was seen by Central Methodist head coach Dan Schmidlin as one of the best one-on-one defenders in the country. Last spring, Drake jumped on the opportunity to bring Riesenbeck into the mix. 

“Laura came to Drake last spring with four years of college experience from a good NAIA program,” Drake women’s soccer head coach Lindsey Horner said. “She quickly improved after getting more time and guidance in the weight room. She also adjusted to a much faster and more athletic game than where she was before.” 

Riesenbeck’s signing with Sturm Graz proves that her decision to join the Bulldogs was a good one, but it wasn’t the only factor that led to her signing. According to Horner, Riesenbeck was already well on her way to becoming a professional soccer player before her short tenure with Drake. However, her season with the Bulldogs still paid substantial dividends in her development as a defender. 

“I think Laura was on the trajectory to play professionally,” Horner said. “Not only adapting to the DI level, but succeeding here and anchoring our backline gave her another year of excellent preparation to open more doors for herself.” 

Horner also said seeing Riesenbeck accomplish something that she had set out to do long before her tenure with Drake was fulfilling to watch. 

“Laura told us early on in the recruiting process that playing professionally was a goal of hers, so to see her achieve that is fulfilling,” Horner said. “To play collegiately for five years, love the game, be healthy and still get better is a great spot to be in…we are very proud of Laura.” 

Riesenbeck had been working towards playing professionally for a long time, and the path to doing so wasn’t easy by any means. 

“The path towards this goal [was] very challenging and uncertain. It always took lots of determination and willpower to stay on track of things,” Riesenbeck said. “If you believe in yourself enough and put the work towards this goal, you are able to achieve your dream, and that is how I have always seen it.”

Riesenbeck’s signing with Sturm Graz, according to Horner, also paves the way for other Drake players to make the leap to professional soccer, whether it be in the U.S. or abroad. 

“Anytime one of our players extends her playing career professionally, it opens doors for others to follow that path — whether it’s helping to make connections overseas or simply by setting an example that there are options after college and [show that] it’s possible,” Horner said.

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