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Balancing goals: Ridgebacks soccer star finding a way to do the math

Student-athlete Katherine Koehler-Grassau combines success in academics and sports

Katherine Koehler-Grassau of the UOIT Ridgebacks women's soccer team leads an attack during a 2016 home game at Vaso's Field.
Katherine Koehler-Grassau of the UOIT Ridgebacks women's soccer team leads an attack during a 2016 home game at Vaso's Field.

She’s already earned a major place in the history of varsity sports at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. But third-year student Katherine Koehler-Grassau is also proving how someone can be a star athlete and simultaneously be a high-performing student in a challenging academic program.

Outside of the classroom, Koehler-Grassau is the talented All-Canadian soccer player who anchors the midfield on a team that is in the afterglow of program’s greatest achievements. Away from the pitch, the Ottawa-area native (Greely, Ontario) is cracking the books and starring academically in the Faculty of Science’s Applied and Industrial Mathematics program. She is one of the 2015 recipients of in-program scholarship offered by Marigold Ford in Oshawa, Ontario.

"UOIT is a great university where I have had the chance to meet so many amazing people, be challenged by a demanding academic program and also have the opportunity to play soccer with a wonderful, talented group of girls,” says Koehler-Grassau. “I definitely would not have had the same success on the field, nor in the classroom, without the support of my teammates, coach, professors and the Athletic department."

Katherine’s historic goal

The Ridgebacks women’s soccer team is only five seasons old. But in 2016, the team rocketed its way to a divisional championship, en route to an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title–the Ridgebacks’ first provincial crown in any sport.

For the second time in three years, the Ridgebacks advanced to the national championship tournament final eight (the team also qualified for the nationals in 2014 after winning an OUA bronze medal). The Ontario champions came home from Nova Scotia as Canadian bronze medalists–the Ridgebacks’ first-ever podium finish on the national stage.

In the bronze medal-clinching win over Queen’s, Koehler-Grassau booted home the only goal of the match in the second half. The marker will long be remembered as one of the greatest sports moments in Ridgebacks history.

Koehler-Grassau, who has previously represented Canada internationally (2015 Summer Universiade in South Korea), was named a championship tournament all-star and All-Canadian for the first time (along with teammate Kylie Bordeleau). Ridgebacks head coach Peyvand Mossavat was also named Canadian university Coach of the Year.


"Katherine is an inspiration to others in her ability to balance the demands of a full course load in mathematics while maintaining her elite level on the playing field."
-Sean Bohun, PhD, Associate Professor, Undergraduate Program Director (Mathematics), Faculty of Science

When we recruited Katherine we knew she was going to be a special player and she has surpassed all expectations in three seasons at UOIT. Her dedication to soccer mirrors her dedication in the classroom, making her a role model to incoming players. Katherine exemplifies all of the qualities that student-athletes in the OUA and U Sports aspire to achieve.” 
-Peyvand Mossavat, Head Coach, UOIT Ridgebacks Women’s Soccer team

“Katherine has more than exceeded expectations in her three years at the university. She is the complete package when it comes to being a student-athlete, accomplishing more academically and athletically in three years than most athletes would accomplish in a university career. The success she has had and the experiences she has encountered are truly remarkable; however, they were only made available to her because of the time, commitment and hard work that she has put in to get to the level that she is at.”
-Scott Barker, Manager of Intercollegiate Athletics