Photo: Monahan signing her contract with Ekenäs Idrottsförening last week.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – For the second year in a row, the Northern Arizona soccer program is sending one of its own to Europe to continue their soccer careers in the professional ranks. Last week, senior Sam Monahan signed a contract to play for Ekenäs Idrottsförening (EIF), a Division II club in Finland, and will leave this week to join the club in preparation for the team's first game on May 6.
Monahan joins former NAU teammate Kristi Andreassen, who played for the Røa football club in Norway last year, as Lumberjacks to pursue a professional soccer career in Europe in the last two years.
"I've always had the vision of playing in Europe," Monahan said. "The opportunity in Finland came up and I'm really excited about it. It's going to be a great opportunity to get my foot in the door and my goal is to help the team win. Hopefully I can get some exposure and some tryouts with teams in higher divisions and who knows, I could end up staying there for longer than I plan."
Monahan will join EIF after an impressive tryout with the Philadelphia Independence of the WPS back in December. She was asked to join the team for the final tryouts before the league was suspended for the 2012 season.
EIF was founded in 1905 and is one of the oldest clubs in the southwest of Finland. The club is located in Tammisaari, an hour outside of the capital city of Helsinki.
"I feel that Sam has all the technical and tactical abilities to play at the next level," said NAU head coach Andre Luciano. "I'm excited that she has the chance to showcase herself in front of other European teams and I'm confident that she can make a living at it. It'll be an opportunity for her to see a new culture and the great thing is that they're excited to have her."
Monahan heads to Finland after wrapping up one of the greatest NAU soccer careers in the fall. She was the only player to start all 19 matches for the Lumberjacks in 2011 and led the team with a career-high seven goals, as well as assists and points. For her efforts, she was a unanimous All-Big Sky first team selection and became one of 10 Lumberjacks in program history with multiple first team all-conference accolades. Monahan left her imprint in the school record books as she finished her career second in career assists, fifth in points, tied for fifth in shots, eighth in goals and tied for sixth in game-winning goals.
"College soccer prepared me well," Monahan said. "I think I made a mark here at NAU and I'm hoping I can do the same over there. I'm hoping to make an impact."
For Monahan, who will receive her degree in electronic media and film as part of next week's commencement ceremonies despite already being in Finland for the start of her professional career, the opportunity of playing soccer, or "football" as it's more commonly known overseas, in Europe is one that she couldn't pass up.
"It's going to be completely different and that was the reason why I wanted to go to Europe," Monahan said. "The way they view soccer and the way it's viewed here (in America) is different and I'm excited to experience that and learn something from it."
EIF's season begins on May 6 against Sudet and runs through September 15. For more information on the Ekenäs Idrottsförening football club, check out their official website here.