Soccer: Aspen’s Graber signs with William Woods University |

Soccer: Aspen’s Graber signs with William Woods University

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoAspen High senior Annie Graber poses with, from left, parents Jess and Jane Graber, athletic director Carol Sams and girls soccer coach John Gillies recently after signing her letter of intent to play at NAIA William Woods University (Mo.).

ASPEN – This spring, Annie Graber played a key role in the Skiers girls soccer team’s landmark season.

This fall, she will look to do the same at the next level. The soon-to-be Aspen High graduate recently signed her national letter of intent to play for the William Woods University (Mo.) Owls.

“It was so exciting. Almost surreal,” Graber said Thursday. “It was one of the best moments in my life so far. I wanted to continue my soccer career, and making that happen is really nice. And my coach always wanted me to play in college, so this is kind of like a thank-you to him.”

One of the most prolific forwards in program history, Graber helped lead the Skiers to a first conference crown since 1998 and a fourth-

consecutive postseason berth.

Her 14 goals – including two in a lopsided victory over rival Basalt in March – paced a squad that finished 11-2-3.

“She was fantastic. She probably didn’t get enough praise,” Aspen head coach John Gillies said. “She’s fearless. Not many girls will attack a ball from the corner and put their head there.

“She listens, she learns and she’s hungry. She loves to score and loves the game. I can honestly say this with true belief: She is one girl that will excel in college.”

Graber decided during her freshman year to pursue playing soccer beyond high school. That plan came to fruition late last year.

At the behest of a family friend whose daughter attended William Woods, Graber began looking into the school, located about 100 miles west of St. Louis in Fulton. She decided to fill out an online recruiting form.

Owls head coach Randy Hall invited Graber to Missouri in November.

“They were the first school to get back to me,” Graber said. “It was kind of scary at first. Playing with 20-year-olds, it was kind of like freshman year all over again. But everyone was really nice, and it was a good experience to practice with people that have higher skills than you do. It turned out to be really fun, and the coaches were really ecstatic about me.”

So much so that Graber was offered a spot on the team during her visit. Soon after she returned home, Graber was offered a partial scholarship.

She was considering other schools, among them Grinnell College in Iowa, but Graber said William Woods quickly emerged as the frontrunner.

“It’s a small school … so being able to know everyone is nice. And their academics are amazing,” she said. “I like to horseback ride, and they have a barn on site. For me to be able to ride, that’s nice.

“One night, I talked to my parents and said, ‘I think I’m going there.'”

Graber is slated to join the Owls, who finished 8-9-2 at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics level last season, in mid-August.

“(Hall) said I can fit in right away, but it’s going to take some time to know everyone’s skills. I think it’s going to be a smooth transition,” Graber said.

“I’m so excited. I’m kind of ready to get out of this small town.”

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