Women's Soccer

Carolin Bader transitions well from Germany to Syracuse

Tony Curtis | The Daily Orange

Syracuse's Carolin Bader transformed from a standout German club player into a contributor for the Orange.

In the first twenty minutes against Notre Dame, Syracuse was embarrassed. Although the score read 0-0, Notre Dame controlled more possession, outshot the Orange, produced more corners, and challenged the Syracuse defense.

In the 23rd minute, head coach Phil Wheddon decided to substitute freshman midfielder Carolin Bader into the game. Bader is from Germany, where the game is much different. Rather than pace and strength, fundamentals dominate the European game.

“Her tactical understanding sets her apart from other players,” Wheddon said.

Bader followed her substitution by not turning the ball over for the first 51 minutes she was in the game and finished with the least turnovers for SU, helping to guide it to a 1-1 draw against No. 20 UND.

She has been key for Syracuse this season, and SU (7-1-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) will need her to execute against No. 11 Clemson (7-2, 1-0). In one of Syracuse’s best seasons since 2001, the Orange has relied on several of its international players. Bader is the only German player the team has had in that same time span.

Her growth as a player started in Gilching, a small town just outside of Munich, the hub of German soccer.

The FC Bayern Munich men’s senior team has dominated the German landscape for the greater part of the last two decades with 13 titles. The soccer giant has won the most titles in Bundesliga history and cast its shadow across the culture of the country and the city.

Despite the love for soccer that the city shared, Bader was the only girl in her town that played soccer at a young age. Instead of choosing a different path, Bader decided to test her skills in all boys’ leagues.

She started playing soccer in 2004, when she was six years old. Her coach was her father, who was also the only coach in the league with a girl on his team. Bader’s father figured if the other boys were going to treat his daughter like a boy on the pitch, so was he.

“On the field there wasn’t a difference between me and the other players,” Bader said. “But off the field, he would always help me and give extra tips to get better than them.”

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Bader grew up playing against larger boys. When other girls in her area adopted the game as well, she was ahead of the curve.

In 2011, Bader was named to the Bayern Munich U-17 women’s squad and played some of the stiffest competition in the country. Bayern won the Bundesliga title, with Bader as one of its starting midfielders. Bayern then won another title in 2012-13.

After her third season anchoring the junior team’s midfield, Bayern promoted Bader as a reserve for the senior women’s team. In her two years with Bayern, it won two Bundesliga titles.

Her promotion to the senior team drew Syracuse head coach Phil Wheddon’s attention.

“We have a contact in Germany who said you need to take a look at this player,” Wheddon said. “I flew to Germany, and I liked what I saw. I thought that she possessed the qualities that would help us.”

Bader’s decision to come to the U.S. was spontaneous. In Germany, she couldn’t combine school and soccer. She would attend university and play club, and the two often conflicted. Playing in the U.S. eliminated that, though.

At SU, she’s playing more than she did in Germany. Before, she had four practices and one game per week. She is adjusting to only having one day off per week, something that she said intimidated her about coming to play in America.

Bader had learned English in school for six years, but never spoke it at home. Her parents do not speak any English, only her sisters do. They also take English classes.

But now, she takes classes where everything is done in English, goes to practice where everyone speaks mostly English and has assimilated into a new life where she is learning a new style of play.

SU’s team trainer is learning German to quickly communicate with Bader in case of an injury. Since it is her natural language, the team wants her to be able to get as much help as fast as she can.

All season, her English has improved. She’s still adjusting to a different playing style. Both have helped her go from a club player at FC Bayern to a key player at Syracuse.

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