A Goal to Assist

Kristi Andreassen was part of the recruiting class that changed the course of women's soccer at Northern Arizona University. Before her arrival, the women's soccer team had never made a national tournament or captured a Big Sky conference championship. Now, as she enters her second year of the doctor of physical therapy program, she fondly looks back at being part of two NCAA national tournament teams, and the 2008 Big Sky Championship squad.

Andreassen played centerback, and was captain of the 2009–2010 team that fell to top-ranked Stanford in the national tournament. She was also named a first-team Academic All-American by ESPN the Magazine. As a high school star from Tempe, Andreassen was drawn to Flagstaff for visionary and pragmatic reasons.

"Growing up, I always thought I was going to go to Arizona State University, but I ultimately decided on NAU because I really liked the coach, the team, and the goals the coach had set for the team," Kristi says. "And academically, I knew I eventually wanted to become a physical therapist, and they had a great undergraduate program [in exercise science] that prepared you really well for [physical therapy] school."

In pursuit of something great

Coach Andre Luciano's goal to turn Northern Arizona University into a women's soccer powerhouse resonated strongly with her. Building something great has been highly rewarding, she says.

"In the past, [top soccer recruits] haven't thought about going to NAU as a number one choice, so [Coach Luciano] wanted to create a winning team—and a winning tradition," she says. "He wanted to make it to the NCAA national tournament every year. I loved being a part of it, in that our class was his first recruiting class, and was supposed to be a part of the turning point—we actually managed to do that, so it's been a great experience."

Andreassen fostered a winning culture with commitment and communication. She believes that when everyone on the team shares these values, great things can happen.

"Personnel plays a huge part of success—everyone has to have the same goal," she says. "Starting with my class, and with every recruiting class since, we have all been committed. If you're not committed, you're not going to be successful. I also try to be constantly communicating, and constantly supporting my teammates in any way possible. If you don't know what's going on around you, the chances of making a mistake are a lot higher, so I try to communicate a lot to help everyone around me."

Focused on helping others

Andreassen also wants to help others as a physical therapist, a career she was inspired to pursue after a physical therapist helped her recuperate from injuries in high school.  As an undergraduate at Northern Arizona University, she majored in exercise science and excelled; she earned a cumulative 4.0 GPA.  She says the experience was remarkable.

"Honestly, every professor I've had here has been great," says Kristi. "I feel like we have so many great professors here, and that people [outside of NAU] don't really know that. People who don't come here don't know how good our professors are."

Andreassen says the transition from undergraduate to graduate study was difficult, but has reaffirmed her career choice.

“It was the most challenging year of school that I have ever experienced, but totally worth the countless hours of studying and sitting in class,” Andreassen says. “I have already learned so much, and I am very excited for the next two years and for all that I will learn in that time. Graduate school at NAU has verified that physical therapy is my passion.”