Known mostly as the home of one of the wealthiest men in the world, for a zoo and as the the center of the college baseball world each year, Omaha is home to many great attractions and also to a 21-year old girl who spends each fall tormenting MIAA opponents on the soccer field.
Redshirt junior Bridget Blessie grew up just outside of Omaha, Neb. Blessie grew up competing with two older brothers.
“I was always trying to keep up with them, whether it was shooting hoops or playing in the streets,” Blessie said.
Bridget’s desire to compete started at the age of four, spending afternoons playing sports with the neighborhood kids. Blessie was the only girl on her street, but she learned young that no one, parents included, would give her any sympathy.
“I would go complain to my parents, but they would just tell me I needed to be better than my brothers,” Blessie said.
Bridget began her soccer career at the age of four, playing in a co-ed league.
“I was an energetic child, I was unable to ever sit still,” Blessie said. “I tried volleyball, but there just wasn’t enough running.”
Soccer was a perfect fit for the young girl from southeast Nebraska. Though she enjoyed soccer as a kid, her love for the game began the first time she watched the World Cup.
“I was watching it and realized—this isn’t just a neighborhood game…this is huge,” Blessie said.
Her talent and competitive side led her to the Elite Girls Academy. Youth soccer took a huge jump in the 1990’s, going from 1.6 million kids to three million in 2000. The overall number of kids has stayed about the same, but the boy-girl ratio has changed over the last 10 years. The ratio now is almost 50/50.
“I think a lot of it is the talent is growing,” Blessie said. “The seventh and eighth grade kids are much more talented now, compared to when I was growing up.”
Youth academies like the one Blessie played in allows kids the opportunity to get the best training and the chance to travel the country to participate in tournaments.
“My favorite part was getting to travel to San Diego for a tournament,” Blessie said.
The overall talent that is assembled in the EGA gives athletes the competition needed to bring out the best in them.
“Every girl that was on my EGA team was a college commit,” Blessie said. “I have one friend who went to Penn State and actually won a national title.”
There are numerous girls that Bridget played with during her time with the EGA that went on to play at schools such as North Carolina, Miami and Marquette.
“They really know how to develop you and they know how to prepare you for college,” Blessie said.
One of Blessie’s biggest rivals has not always been the opponent on the other side of the field—but staying healthy. She had an offer from a Division I school before hurting her knee in the San Diego tournament.
“They told me they would re-evaluate me and I was getting strong again and then I hurt my knee again in high school,” Blessie said. “I ended up having two surgeries while in school.”
Bridget was born with slanted knees and so she was at a disadvantage from the beginning. It tested her work ethic, her drive and it would have been very easy for her to move on from that chapter of her life. Coaches, family and teammates did not allow her to quit.
“I didn’t give up—and I have so many people to thank for that,” Blessie said.
Bridget has excelled in almost every aspect since moving to St. Joseph. She has been named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll the last two seasons and was First Team All-MIAA on the field last season.
“They say that you’re only as strong as your weakest link and so I push myself to not ever be the worst player on the field,” Blessie said.
There are very few things as important as winning to Bridget, and she proved that last season by setting a school record with four game-winning goals.
“I hate the feeling of losing more than I enjoy the feeling of winning,” Blessie said.
This season starts a new chapter for the redshirt junior who is always looking to improve. She struggled once again with knee pain during the 2015 season, and once again was forced to go through surgery to clean up her knee. The hardest part of the off-season was not being able to practice with her teammates.
“I would stand on the sidelines and beg the coaches to go in, I didn’t care if I went in as the goalkeeper,” Blessie said.
Bridget spent the off-season working on getting herself into playing condition. She has no desire to sit on the sidelines anymore and feeling like she was letting her team down by not being out there. The Griffons will need their leading scorer from the last year if they are to have any chance at competing for championships—but working hard is not an issue when it comes to Blessie.
“I have been working hard to become a better shooter, to get more shots on goal,” Blessie said.
Missouri Western has seen dramatic improvement from most of their teams. Soccer has had two of its best seasons the last two years, softball has been solid, and women’s basketball recently celebrated an MIAA championship. The success of other athletes does not go unnoticed, and the need to be just as or more successful than other sports is a common thing on Western’s campus.
“We support each other, but you also don’t want to be the worst sports team on campus,” Blessie said.
After her career of taking care of business on the soccer field, Bridget hopes to move on to a business career. Majoring in marketing and finance, the soccer star hopes to one day work for a sports franchise like the Chiefs or even pursue a career with the FBI.
“But who knows, I have even given some thought into going to law school,” Blessie said.
Though she excels on the field, Bridget is like any other college student. She works a part-time job making coffee in the hospital and likes to binge-watch Netflix shows late at night. But it is her work on the field that she wants to be remembered for.
“I want to be like Mike Hill, even though I didn’t go to school with him, but I know who he is,” Blessie said.