If one would have told Jackie Paloucek a year ago that she would sign a letter of intent to play college soccer as a goalie, she would have said that person was crazy.But after last spring in which she helped lead North Platte High School to the state tournament, Paloucek feels ready to take her talents to the next level by signing on Thursday with the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
"I didn't think I was that good (to play goalie in college, a year ago)," said Paloucek. "But my skills have gotten better."
Before her junior season, Paloucek had not played goalie since she was on the North Platte Tornadoes in sixth grade. But in the first few games of the season, Paloucek won the position and she blossomed in the role.
The Lady Bulldogs went 14-4 with Paloucek netting 12 shutouts and they qualified for the state tournament, losing to Lincoln Southeast in the first round.
College coaches took notice of Paloucek, in particular John Maessner, who was the then-interim coach at UNK. Maessner initiated contact with Paloucek in August.
Now six months later, Paloucek has signed on with the Lopers. Paloucek said that she gets to play goalie in college, at a school she felt comfortable at.
"It's a good opportunity for me," she said. "It's close to home. But not too close and I know a lot of people who are going to school there."
Under Maessner, UNK went 9-7-2 in just its fourth year of competition. Paloucek said that she knows a lot of the players on the team, especially former NPHS teammate Breezy Jahnke, who will be entering her sophomore season with the team.
Since her breakout season last year, Paloucek said that she has improved in every facet of playing the position which makes her excited not just for her future at UNK but her senior season at North Platte coming up.
"I think we can easily go back to state," said Paloucek. "I have a lot of faith in my teammates."