By Tori Wittenbrock
ASHWAUBENON – The Green Bay Glory women’s soccer team found themselves in trouble after their starting goalkeeper, Mallory Kerhin, faced a severe knee injury in their home game on June 11 against Rochester FC, which would put an end to her season.
This would mean that the team would be left without a keeper in an important game on June 14 against Aurora FC.
However, one young female athlete, Larissa Likes, was ready for her chance in the limelight and stepped up to help out and gain some experience at one of the highest levels of her sport.
Because soccer in the Green Bay area is such a tight-knit community, the family of one of Likes’ old teammates was at the game the night that Kerhin was injured and spread the word about Likes’ innate talent and impressive work-ethic.
“My old teammate’s mom talked with the [Glory] player that she knew, which resulted in the player talking to the coaches about me being a goalkeeper. The coaches were interested in knowing more about me, seeing a highlight video, and ended up asking me if I could fill in for the games that I was available for the rest of the season,” said Likes.
Likes ended up playing three games with the Glory: one in Minnesota, one in Chicago and one at home.
“I was blessed to have been in the right place at the right time, knowing people with connections to the team that allowed me to end up filling in as the Glory goalkeeper,” said 16-year-old Likes, who just finished her sophomore year at Kaukauna High School, said she is extremely grateful for this opportunity to play with the Glory team.
“I had an unreal experience playing with Glory. Having the experience of stepping on the field with 10 other amazing soccer players that had or currently have the dreams and aspirations of playing high level soccer was unbelievable,” said Likes.
Likes said that each of the players and coaches with the program worked hard to ensure that she felt welcomed and a part of the team.
“The people in the Glory community made me feel completely at home. Stepping in to fill a huge position on the team is honestly something very intimidating and a bit nerve racking, especially at the age of 16. However, the teammates and coaches welcomed me with open arms and huge hearts.”
In addition to the experience that Likes gained from playing with the girls on the team, she said she also made a lot of really special relationships, but one in particular has been a long time in the making.
“I’ve made lots of relationships with players in the very short amount of time that I was given with the Glory, but I had an important relationship that was made previously from playing with the team. The Glory goalkeeper Sara [Klimisch] back in 2019, when I was 11-12 years old, was the biggest inspiration of mine,” said Likes.
“She gave me goalkeeper training all summer in my backyard. She taught me so many skills that I could use to improve my game, and also taught me so much…about how to get over mistakes. She was someone that I really looked up to and wanted to be exactly like her when I grew up.”
Klimisch was the Glory’s first-ever goalkeeper during their inaugural season, five years ago. Likes said that this was her first introduction to Green Bay Glory soccer.
“I’d go to the home games to cheer the team and Sara on. I dreamt at the time of playing at the level of the ‘big girls’ that were playing in front of me. I was so inspired by Sara that I even got her autograph and a picture every time I saw her. And now, five to six years later, I am playing on the same team, in the same position and giving out my autograph to little kids just like I once dreamt of doing,” said Likes.
“Sara was the person that allowed me to experience what it feels like to achieve something that you once dreamt of achieving.”
Likes has not only been looking forward to opportunities like this, but has been training and working hard to make the most of them as well.
“From November to March I have high school soccer training, weightlifting, speed and agility training, Olympic Development Program training and at least one day of one on one goalkeeper training at a separate training facility with personal coaches,” said Likes.
Though her schedule can be intense, Likes said her schedule varies depending on what season she is in, keeping her on her toes.
“After the club season concludes, the high school soccer season starts right up,” she said. “It’s a never ending cycle with lots and lots of soccer every single week of the year. However, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way, and I’m so lucky I get to live my life privileged to all these opportunities to do what I love.”
Outside of her training, however, Likes said she takes some additional steps to ensure she is making the most of her potential as an athlete.
“Something that I do to better my performance as an athlete, is to take time to figure out what motivates me to always keep working even when it’s difficult to find the motivation to do so. I am a huge believer of motivational quotes, as they are simple passages and sayings that can really just change your entire perspective on a situation,” said Likes.
“I feel this has improved my mentality on difficult situations, and so many different words of wisdom from coaches, trainers, teammates, family, etc. have helped me get through challenging times.”
Despite her current success and dedication to her role on the field, Likes has experience in other positions on the field as well.
“After U10, I did play on the field quite a bit as my coach was still trying to figure out who liked what positions. But even not having set positions, I loved training as a goalkeeper, and I loved the pressure that that position brings,” said Likes.
“Not only that, but it’s a very unique position that requires lots of different skills and confidence, in which I love dedicating myself to doing something that lots of people would turn down immediately.”
Likes also spent a significant portion of her freshman year of high school soccer playing in the midfield for her school’s varsity team. Now, she is back in the net, doing what she loves.
Likes is also a very well-rounded athlete, with experience in dance, gymnastics, basketball, track, cross country, tennis and a few others.
“Nothing brings me the same level of passion that soccer has brought me over the 13 — and still counting — years. I am grateful to have found my passion in something that has taught me so many life lessons and has brought me so much joy,” said Likes.
Likes said she intends to pursue a career in soccer for as long as she is able.
“My first dream and goal is to play college soccer. Playing semi-professionally in the NWSL or being drafted to play professionally is also a dream of mine. However, even though it is just a dream, I will continue to push myself and be dedicated to do everything in my power to make my dreams become a reality.”
Likes said that she would not be where she is today in her soccer career without her current support system, but is especially grateful towards her parents.
“The countless money, miles and time that my parents have spent on me is unmatched, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Her teammates and coaches are also a relevant part of her success, according to Likes.
“I want to thank all the teammates, coaches and trainers that have been there every step of the way. The friendships, relationships and life lessons that have been built throughout my career thus far will last a lifetime.”
Likes said that in order to be successful in your sport, the most important lesson she has learned is about discipline when it comes to her training.
“You will never be a high-performing athlete without dedicating countless hours and time into improving. You have to be physically disciplined in the sense that you have to be in shape to perform your specific position and complete physically demanding exercise.”
Amid the recruiting process — which can often be a very stressful time for young athletes — Likes said she has had to make a lot of social sacrifices for her sport, always keeping her long-term goals in mind.
“Social sacrifices happen left and right, and to compete at a high level and to constantly work to improve, you have to be ok with missing out on tons of experiences,” said Likes.
“On Fridays while all my friends were at the football game, I was at a 1 on 1 goalkeeper training for the evening. My sophomore year I missed my school’s Winter Ball dance because I was in Minnesota for a showcase tournament.”
Likes said she has come to terms with these sacrifices, and is okay with missing out on certain events because she knows that she is blessed to be able to do what she loves every day.
Although she has no idea what the future holds for her, Likes is thankful for her experience playing with Green Bay Glory, and says she is excited to see what other opportunities are in store for her in her soccer career.