West Fargo Sheyenne girls soccer head coach Paul Grendzinski called out Madison Urlaub for not following his instructions. Urlaub looked at him in frustration, then with a smile. She told him she would get it right next time, and Grendzinski admits she did. He says Urlaub always has a willingness to get things right.
Urlaub has been a pillar of offensive firepower for the Mustangs the past two years. Her scoring helped get the team its first ever regular season Eastern Dakota Conference title last year. She's also propelled the Mustangs to the top of the EDC standings this year as of Friday, May 11, before the East Region tournament starts on Tuesday, May 22. But after the Mustangs lost in the first round of their first North Dakota state tournament last year, Urlaub intends on getting it right this time around.
In fact, the senior forward and Minnesota State-Moorhead commit knows the date of this year's state championship-June 2-off the top of her head. Urlaub, who was a first-team all-state selection and an all-tournament selection last year, wants to get things right by going further in this year's state tournament while she still has the chance.
"Everyone's goal is to get to the state tournament," Urlaub said. "We need to stay focused and get there all the way. We want to make it last as long as possible."
Urlaub's path to being a Division II commitment and an offensive weapon respected across the EDC wasn't easy. In her freshman year of basketball for Sheyenne, her foot was misdiagnosed with a sprain. She played through the pain that basketball season and helped the West Fargo girls soccer team get to the state semifinals during the spring. She played both basketball and soccer throughout the summer until she could hardly walk. She got it checked out again and it turned out she was playing on a broken foot all along.
"I just powered through it," Urlaub said. "But I could not do it anymore."
After surgery on that right foot, Urlaub tore her ACL in her left knee during her sophomore year of basketball. Senior right wing Morgan Allard said Urlaub's fight to recover was inspiring. Allard said it was tough to watch a teammate taken away from what she loves but was proud to see her develop a future in soccer.
"She's put in the extra work to prove she's worthy of her spot," Allard said. "She's really led by example that you can do something, and yeah life sucks, but you can recover from it just fine. She's been a really good example in that way."
That ACL tear kept her from playing Sheyenne's first girls soccer varsity season when the Packers and Mustangs split programs in 2015. But she was still voted team captain despite never playing for the Mustangs in their first year.
Urlaub says she learned leadership from her father, Gerald, who's a Mustangs baseball coach. Urlaub took it upon herself to be a voice for the young program and to make sure others are on the right path.
"It spoke volumes," Grendzinski said. "If you have someone who's hurt and is still the captain and they're still that devoted and being at practice everyday, it takes a lot."
Urlaub started playing soccer since before she can remember. She loved the running but admits she didn't know what she was doing at first. Going through her old pictures, she felt embarrassed when she saw herself as a kid wearing her shin guards on the outside of her socks. But she developed as she played at recreation centers, went to camps and competed in tournaments.
"She brings a tenacity," Grendzinski said. "Her will to be the best she can be and her work ethic, she's got all the basic needs for success through life and soccer. I think that's what separates her."
Allard has known Urlaub since they played club soccer together while in elementary school. Allard said Urlaub has become an example of work ethic for her teammates through school and athletics. Urlaub is smart, and Allard said she normally goes to her for any questions about homework or soccer.
"She knows," Allard said. "She's here to help you and wants you to get better."
Urlaub toured and visited MSUM, Concordia College and the University of Jamestown, but MSUM was closer to home and gave more opportunities for her family to watch her. She doesn't know what position she'll play, but she's open to anything and has tried to learn to become more of a facilitator to grow her skillset. She wanted to prove she can work off the ball on top of her scoring capabilities. Grendzinski said she's still getting offensive opportunities despite other defenses keying in on her. But that attention has also opened up passes to her teammates for scoring as well.
In fact, Allard has heard from friends on other teams that their attention is on Urlaub.
"Other teams see it and knows she's a threat," Allard said. "I wouldn't let her take the shot because when she does, she's very powerful and accurate."
Urlaub and Alexis Albrecht will be the first girls from Sheyenne to play college soccer. Grendzinski said Urlaub's learned plenty of basics while in high school. Urlaub learned to be comfortable working with her left foot and how to finish on breakaways. Now she'll have to learn more of the technical aspects while in college, Grendzinski said.
"She keeps growing and rising to the challenge," Grendzinski said. "The sky is the limit with her."
Urlaub said she wasn't happy when she found out that she would be transitioning to a new high school soccer team with Sheyenne. But she's glad it happened. She said she learned to take pride in a program that was just starting and being the first for a lot of things, including being on the first Mustangs team to make a state tournament. She hopes this Mustangs team can also be the first to win a state title.
"That would be something completely amazing," Urlaub said. "We've been through so many ups and downs, from being over (at West Fargo) freshman year then coming here, starting something new and having to start from scratch, every little thing that goes into a team. It was different for us. If that happens, we would all love that. That would be a great way to go out."