The best soccer player in the history of the Horizon League is still playing.
Notice I didn't say best women's player of all time or even best offensive player of all time. With apologies to Muhammad Ali and LL Cool J, the G.O.A.T. is Sarah Hagen.
Hagen, a sophomore from Appleton, WI, already owns the league record for most goals in a season, with 24 in her rookie campaign, and will rewrite almost every Horizon League goal-scoring record worth breaking. Her personal story is incredible but so is her game. She led Milwaukee to a league title last year, including a dominating effort in the league final, and came away with every post-season award possible with the notable exception of Horizon League Player of the Year. Hmmmm...smashed the league record for goals? Check. Newcomer of the year? Check. Freshman All-American? Check. League Tournament MVP? Check.
It took a record-breaking year from Cynthia Morote-Ariza to wrestle the HL Player of the Year award away from Hagen. It was Morote-Ariza's 2nd-consecutive POY award. Unfortunately for Rambler fans, Morote-Ariza is currently injured. Given the circumstances, it would take a monumental upset for Hagen to not be named the league's best player for the next three seasons. That would be a record too. Only five times in league history has there been a two-time league POY, but never three.
Hagen still has to prove herself in the postseason. Last year Milwaukee's season ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament with a loss to Michigan State, 2-1. The lone Milwaukee goal was an "own" goal. In fact, the Horizon League hasn't had an offensive goal in an NCAA tournament game in six tries, dating back to 2004 and the Mary Parker-led Detroit Titans.
Hagen got off to a "slow" start this season by her lofty standards and Milwaukee struggled to score consistently in late August and early September but âApple' and UWM are rolling now. The battle-tested Panthers are 3-0 in league play and have outscored their opponents 11-2! Hagen has been a central part of the scoring explosion. She has 10 of the team's last 14 goals, 7 of those coming in three Horizon League contests, popping FOUR goals in Milwaukee's victory Sunday against Valpo. The four goals against Valpo are the second most in a game in HL history.
So what's left?
Hagen still has to stay healthy and continue to be a very good player in Milwaukee's out-of-conference schedule and continue to be a dominating force in league play and the rest will take care of itself. She could double the all-time scoring record for the league and has a shot at making some noise in the NCAA all-time record book. That is worth watching.
Milwaukee has five regular season games remaining on their schedule, with three of them at home. Their toughest test will come on October, 18 when Wright State visits Engelmann Field. Hagen will take aim at Meghan Hackersonâs sparkling Goals Against Average (a stingy 0.81), Wright State's league leading Save Percentage and their five shutouts. Good luck Raiders.
It's rare when you get a chance to see someone great, it's even rarer to see an all-time great. It is truly one of the rarest things in sport to know you are watching an all-time great when they're still active.
Oh, and did I mention she's a sophomore?