A soccer standout, with family roots deep in Telluride history, concluded her college career in the NCAA tournament last weekend. But Brooke Denesik didn’t finish her playing career.
After graduation from Texas Tech University next month, the former Telluride resident will sign a contract to play professional soccer.
“I definitely have been blessed with soccer,” Denesik said in a telephone interview from Lubbock, Texas. “We had a great team this year. We had so much skill, along with teamwork and intensity. I didn’t want to see it end.”
The Texas Tech women’s soccer team, after beating Princeton 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA tourney, traveled to Waco, Texas, for a regional matchup against No. 12 Virginia.
Texas Tech’s season ended in a shootout after a 0-0 tie through regulation and double overtime. The 4-2 shootout edge sent Virginia (17-4-0) on to the NCAA quarterfinals.
“We made it to the round of 32 my freshman year as well,” Denesik said, adding that it was inspiring to play in the NCAAs again as a senior.
The Red Raiders, with a runner-up finish in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City before the NCAA tournament, closed this year at 14-6-2.
“I graduate Dec. 15,” said Denesik, who will collect academic honors to match her soccer honors. “Then, I plan on playing professionally here in the U.S. or overseas.”
Denesik, an all-conference defender who broke into the Texas Tech lineup three games into her freshman year, will pack up her accounting degree and soccer cleats and head to a professional soccer destination. Several opportunities loom.
“I did almost every sport when I was little in Telluride. I really liked ice hockey,” said Denesik, who moved from Telluride to suburban Phoenix with her family when she was a youngster.
“Third grade,” she said. Her sister Jordan was in 5th grade.
Jordan Denesik went on to play tennis at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
“Moving (to Arizona) was definitely very different,” Denesik recalled. “We went from knowing everyone (in Telluride) to not knowing anyone.”
But an influential soccer coach at her new club team in Arizona instantly eased the cultural adjustment.
“I had a really good coach. She grew my passion for soccer,” Denesik said. “She has such a passion for the game. She was interested in each one of us … everyone. And she brought a more competitive environment, a higher level of competition.”
Denesik’s play at the prestigious Phoenix-area soccer club along with all-state honors at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem, Arizona, attracted interest among the club coaching network.
Coaches with contacts at Texas Tech University recommended Denesik to the Red Raiders and head coach Tom Stone.
One visit to Lubbock and Denesik was ready to be a Red Raider.
The high-level club experience in Arizona set the foundation for college soccer, said Denesik, who was the first Arizona player to sign with Texas Tech under Stone.
“We had the opportunity to play some of the best (club) teams in the nation, especially the California teams,” Denesik said, adding that college soccer was another big step up. “It was super exciting my first year (at Tech). It’s such an honor to be on the field as a freshman. Once you’re out there, you do everything you can to say on the field.”
She played in 22 of 23 games as a freshman at Tech. She played in every Tech game as a senior, her second year as a team co-captain.
Denesik also played a key role in the Red Raiders’ set pieces this season — corner kicks and free kicks.
She’s also been invited to workouts with the U.S. national youth team.
“I am definitely focused,” Denesik said of her ability to play soccer at a high level and excel in the classroom as well. “But I put the work in for academics and athletics, too.”
She also offers a frank assessment of why Brooke Denesik is Brooke Denesik.
“I’m a perfectionist and one of the most competitive people in the world,” she said simply.
She also credited her family with her bilateral success.
“I think my dad always wanted a son, so I think he pushed me like a boy,” she said. “But he wasn’t overpowering.”
And mom Debra “is not competitive at all,” she said.
But the two Denesik sisters are.
“My sister and I are both super competitive,” she said, again matter-of-factly.
John Denesik, for his part, said that he knew the family needed to make a change when his two daughters flourished amid youth sports in Telluride.
“They (daughters Jordan and Brooke) grew up in Telluride. They played all the sports,” he said. “They were great skiers, they were rock climbers … they played baseball, softball.”
And they were eager and competitive, said John Denesik, whose brother Ricky Denesik is a legend in the mountain trail running world and a former college track standout at Sacramento State.
“That was 2006. I said, ‘If you guys are going to excel (athletically), we’re going to have to move,’” John Denesik said. “We have to find a place with access to advanced youth sports programs.”
The family optical business was sold, and the Denesiks headed to Anthem, Arizona.
But, he said, good grades must come first.
Fortunately, he added, both daughters realized solid academics would be critical for college and beyond.
Jordan Denesik, after playing tennis at Northern Arizona, is currently in graduate school in Delaware.
Brooke Denesik, soon to hold a degree from Texas Tech, is ready to start her graduate program in soccer.
“I do miss Telluride,” she said, adding that the family visited frequently when they first moved to Arizona. But, she said, she hasn’t been back as often during her college years.
“Yes, they do miss Telluride. And they can always go back,” John Denesik said. “But I think they appreciate what we did for them. We were easy parents. We said, ‘This is your time.’”