Oct. 7, 1999
PULLMAN, Wash. -- Two.
As in the number of braids Kristin Mak sports on gameday. As in the number she wears on her jersey. As in the number of years she stayed off the field.
As in too much to handle. As in too bad for the other team. As in too many reasons why Mak is happy to be back playing Cougar soccer again.
As in to whom it may concern: The Mak Attack is back.
She's a senior academically, but a redshirt junior on your roster. And because Mak's been around, you can call her a veteran. But since this is only her second season in a Cougar uniform -- and her first since she played sparingly in 1996 -- you can call her a mere step above a rookie.
Just make no mistake, no matter what you call her, Mak is overjoyed to be playing soccer again. In her years off the field she missed the team camaraderie and the competitive spirit of the game. And she missed out on soccer experience, too, but she didn't miss out on life.
"My freshman year was just a wreck," Mak remembered. "Everyone was just in it for themselves. There was no togetherness, there were no common goals." So Mak took a step back, analyzed her inaugural collegiate season in which she came in off the bench in 16 matches to score two goals on six attempts, and decided to walk away.
"Quitting was a really big step for me," Mak said. "Things just didn't feel right. It was a hard choice for me to make, but taking a few years off and being away from the game was good for me...I got to see what being a student was like without soccer."
All in all, it wasn't that bad, Mak said. But there was that something missing. That competitiveness that had for so long been seemingly handcuffed to her side had escaped, and was quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Yet before it could disappear completely, Dan Tobias appeared on the scene in 1998, taking over the reins of the WSU soccer team to rave reviews. Suddenly, Mak's soccer flame was burning bright.
"I heard some really positive things about the new coaching staff," Mak said. "I decided to give it another chance...When I wasn't playing, I missed that feeling of being competitive. I didn't have that anymore and I missed that a lot.
"I think a lot of people on the team might take playing (collegiate soccer) for granted. Maybe not for granted, but they don't realize how special it is...I guess I'm just really fortunate that I was able to take time off and experience time without soccer, and then realize that it's a big part of my life and get back into it."
Since she's been back, she's been better than ever. Starting in all 10 of WSU's matches this season, Mak has netted one goal and added two assists. She has emerged as a leader, but she revels in the knowledge that she's also just one of the team.
"The whole environment, the whole team this year, is a lot closer than it was my freshman year," Mak said. "You have people pulling for you and wanting you to do well, and you want to do well for the team....And you have all these friends who maybe you wouldn't normally be friends with. That's what's so great about this team."
And, Mak says, that's the way it should be.
"Winning is always important," Mak said. "But I don't think that's going to be the thing I remember. What I'll look back on is the team."
And they'll look back on her, too. And, no doubt, be happy she came back.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON KRISTIN MAK:
FINDING THE EXIT RAMP: Despite all that she went through to make her return to the soccer field, Kristin Mak isn't planning on sticking around much longer. Her soccer road is coming to a close. "I think I'm done after this season," Mak said of her soccer career. "I'm going to graduate this year. I love soccer, but it's time." Time to spread her wings and fly on to bigger and better things -- almost literally. "I'm hoping to study in China," said Mak, an international business major. "I have a lot of family that lives in Hong Kong, so I'd like to stay over there a little bit." And then? "I don't know what I want to do," Mak said. "I just want to get out there."
TAKING AIM: You would think that since Mak lines up in the forward slot she would have a natural propensity for putting the ball in the net. But that wasn't the case for Mak playing high school basketball. Nope, when it came time to put the ball in the basket, Mak was swiftly exited from the court. "I was the worst shooter ever," Mak remembered. "If there was a dead-ball in an offensive situation, it was like, 'Mak, get off the court.'...I mean I didn't suck. I was okay. I just wasn't a very good shooter." Maybe it's because the net is smaller.
BIG HAIR, BIG STAR: Ask Mak about her favorite celebrity run-in and it won't take long to get a reply. That's an easy one: martial arts movie star Jackie Chan. "When we were little, we used to watch his movies all the time," Mak said. "They are awesome! They are so funny." And apparently so is Chan's wardrobe. "I was in the airport in Hong Kong at a restaurant," Mak said. "All these people came in and he (Chan) was with them. He had these silver, like Robocop glasses on and his hair was just huge." So among the masses of swooning girls, Mak managed to get Chan's autograph. But she didn't strike up a conversation. "I'm so embarrassed in situations like that," Mak said. "But it was great."
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