- WHERE DO I START?
- ABOUT DASC
- TOURNAMENT SERIES
Karlie Mueller is the most decorated and successful female player to ever come out of Dakota Alliance Soccer Club. Quinn Pesicka is her Freshman Algebra Teacher’s oldest child. So how did these 2 become the closest of friends, and where does soccer tie into this story? What follows is a heart warming tale that shows the kind of amazing, selfless people that play for Dakota Alliance Soccer Club.
If you are involved with Dakota Alliance, there are certain players who are legendary. Karlie Mueller is one of those players. Karlie played for DASC up until she was a sophomore in high school. She then transferred to Toro Bravo in Omaha to play for a team loaded with potential Division 1 talent. She had a teammate that went to UNC, one that went to Miami, 4 that went to Nebraska, and 3, including Karlie, that went to Texas A & M. After committing to A & M, Karlie came back to DASC. She played her senior year of high school soccer at Roosevelt as well as her final year of club soccer at Dakota Alliance.
Karlie played all 4 years of college soccer at Texas A & M, making an appearance in the NCAA Final Four. She also earned a call up to the U.S. Women’s National Team Under 20 team, where she played in Sweden and here in the U.S. against Japan. Additionally, she was invited to the U.S. National Team’s Under 23 camp but had to turn that down for personal reasons. More on those personal reasons later.
After a knee injury in her senior year, Karlie completed her degree, and chose not to enter the draft, but to instead come back to Sioux Falls to acquire a nursing degree at Augustana.
This story, however, is not about Karlie’s on field achievements, but more about her bond with Quinn Pesicka. While Karlie was playing in Omaha, she was still living and going to school in Sioux Falls. This meant she missed a number of important classes. Her Freshman Algebra Teacher, Kate Pesicka, agreed to tutor Karlie to help her keep up with school.
Over the course of her tutoring, Karlie got to know the Pesicka family. This included Kate’s husband David, as well as their 2 children, Quinn and Kinsley. The Pesickas now have a 3rd child, Avyn.
Karlie quickly bonded with Quinn, who she called, “wise beyond her years.” She babysat for the family, and when Quinn’s 1st grade class needed mentors, during Karlie’s senior year at high school, she volunteered without hesitation. This meant Karlie and Quinn got to hang out every day.
The fact I have not mentioned yet, is that Quinn was diagnosed with cancer when she was 6 months old. It was treated and went remission at that time. During Karlie’s Sophomore year in high school, her Grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. This only tightened the bond between her and the Pesickas.
After Karlie graduated from high school she headed off to College Station. A few years later, in March 2014, Quinn’s cancer returned, this time in the form of a brain tumor. With Quinn’s future uncertain, Karlie was 1,009 miles away and was not sure what to do. She turned to her team for help.
The bond between teammates at Texas A & M is something that the program is very proud of. “When one person went through something, we all kind of go through it,” were the exact works Karlie said to describe it. The Aggies rallied around their teammate, and dedicated their Spring Game to Quinn Pesicka. They all wrote “Play For Quinn” on their arms for the game.
This was a lovely tribute and all that the Pesickas or Karlie really could hope for, but the team went a step further.
The following season, Karlie’s Junior year, the SEC home opener Vs Tennessee was named the “Go Fight Quinn Game.” The team flew the Pesicka Family to Texas for the game, they held a welcome party at the airport, as well as a silent auction and a fund raiser. This effort raised approximately $8,000 to help pay the huge medical bills that cancer treatment gifts you with and also gave Quinn a chance to be an Aggie for a day, something she had always wanted to do.
As the season went on, it appeared that Quinn’s cancer was again going into remission, and she was getting better. As the end of season, NCAA Tournament got underway, Karlie got some bad news from Sioux Falls. Quinn had suffered a seizure and a 2nd tumor was found. Karlie went to her coaches, who were understanding enough to let her go home for a few days in the middle of the tournament. This was a great gesture from a sympathetic coaching staff, who could see what Karlie herself was going through.
After visiting home, Karlie came back to the team, and played every game in the Aggies run to the National Final Four.
In Spring of 2015, Quinn’s cancer was found to be terminal and she was given 1-2 weeks to live. Karlie immediately came home missing the Spring Season. Over this period, she was invited to join the US Women’s Under 23 National Team. She turned this down to spend time with Quinn and the whole Pesicka family, helping in any way she could. When I asked if it was a tough choice to turn down the U23 national camp, Karlie told me she just could not face the thought of being in another part of the country, let alone another continent while Quinn was going through this. Now THAT is the kind of friendship and loyalty very few people have. This is the sort of thing that sets a person apart from the rest.
Quinn Pesicka passed away on June 20th 2015. She was given 2 weeks to live in April 2015, and survived for 2 months, typifying the type of fighter and survivor she had become. She is loved and missed by her friends, family and all who knew her.
The story, however, does not end there. On the 3 month anniversary of Quinn’s passing, Texas A & M were playing in the “Go Gold Game.” This game was designed to raise money for Pediatric Cancer Research. Quinn Pesicka was recognized with a moment of silence before the game, and at half time she was awarded the “Brave Life” Award. The teams were tied as the game went into Double Overtime, when who else, but Karlie Mueller popped up to score the winning goal for the Aggies. This was the only goal Karlie ever scored for Texas A & M, and it could not have been a more poignant or appropriate tribute to Quinn.
When interviewing Karlie for this article, I asked her how she felt soccer and DASC played a part in making her the person she is today, as well as her relationship with Quinn.
She said that DASC has helped develop her into the person she is today. She believes, as do many, that your main development as a soccer player and as a person happen from the ages of 8 to 13 years old. During that time she was at DASC. She credited her coaches, Tim Christian, Ginger McGill, Clay Glasgow, Brandon Barkus and Steve Burkhalter. She said they “instilled values of teamwork, dedication and hard work. Being around coaches and players who value that make you who you are.”
Karlie still sees the Pesicka Family a lot, calling Quinn and her siblings her “little sisters.” She stated that, “Sharing soccer with them and the DASC Family has been rewarding and exciting.”
Soccer has been a great outlet for the Pesicka family to grieve. In an email to me, Kate and Dave Pesicka stated, “We truly love DASC and all it has done and continues to do for our girls.” Dakota Alliance is immensely proud to be able to provide the opportunity to play soccer to the Pesickas.
Karlie Mueller is the kind of person that Dakota Alliance will always be proud of. While she was a star on the field, she realized that soccer is only the surface. It is your friendships, and loyalty that define who you are. She was playing with some of the greatest women soccer players in the nation, and traveling to represent our national team. It would be so easy to forget those back home, and ignore a struggling family to whom she had no obligations. Instead, she embraced Quinn and her family even tighter. Karlie never lost sight of those core values. She put her friendship with Quinn and the Pesickas before everything else during her soccer career. When school was finished, she came back to South Dakota cementing that bond.
Today, Karlie is an assistant coach at Augustana University, and assists in Sioux Falls with a number of other soccer related activities. She can occasionally be seen at the H staying in shape by training with the DASC U19 team.
Karlie is graduating from Augie in December. She is planning on going into nursing and says her friendship with Quinn is a big reason she is planning to be a pediatric oncology nurse.
Dakota Alliance Soccer Club
401 West 39th Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
Mobile Phone: 605-332-5911