Missouri State’s Kyle Hiebert dribbles the ball during action against Bradley on April 13, 2021 in Springfield, Mo. After a stellar career at Missouri State, Manitoba’s Hiebert is looking forward to his next step in soccer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Missouri State University Office of Visual Media/Jesse Scheve

Missouri State’s Kyle Hiebert dribbles the ball during action against Bradley on April 13, 2021 in Springfield, Mo. After a stellar career at Missouri State, Manitoba’s Hiebert is looking forward to his next step in soccer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Missouri State University Office of Visual Media/Jesse Scheve

Manitoba defender Kyle Hiebert looks forward to next chapter of soccer career

First-ever Missouri Valley Conference player to win three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards

After a stellar collegiate career at Missouri State, Canadian Kyle Hiebert is looking forward to his next chapter in soccer.

With undergraduate and master’s degrees in accounting already in his back pocket, the all-American centre back has worked hard on and off the field to get to this stage of his young career. He overcame injury to captain the Bears and become the first-ever Missouri Valley Conference player to win three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The 24-year-old from La Salle, Man., recently added a data analytics in accounting certificate to his resume but hopes to keep his degree in reserve for a few years.

“The plan is to continue playing soccer for as long as I can,” said Hiebert, who also earned academic all-American honours.

“There is actually something in the works,” he added. “We have to wait about a week before it gets made public, so I can’t reveal a team name. But I’m excited. It looks like my soccer career is not going to be done at Missouri State.”

The club is in North America, he offered. Hiebert, who is married to an American, has a Green Card as a U.S. resident so his North American options are wide-open.

Hiebert has had a relationship with Winnipeg’s Valour FC, whose former coach Rob Gale brought him into Canadian youth camps in California and France.

“That was a special experience,” Hiebert said, recalling the French trip. “Just standing there with guys from across Canada, listening to the anthem, getting ready to play France.”

Gale, who was let go by Valour last September, had said the Canadian Premier League team’s door was always open to the Manitoba defender.

Hiebert ended up at Missouri State after facing off against some of the Bears players playing for a Springfield club team while he was with WSA Winnipeg, now FC Manitoba of the USL League 2. Missouri State showed interest, with Hiebert ultimately deciding the school was the right fit athletically and academically.

“I’ve loved my time here,” he said of life in Springfield.

He has been part of a global group, with the Bears roster featuring talent from Denmark, England, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, Norway. Spain and the U.S.

“it’s been a very unique team. It’s just cool how Missouri State can bring all these guys together from all over the world,” he said. “Interestingly enough, there’s only one Canadian … I give the coaching staff a hard time. They’re going to have to do more recruiting in Canada now.”

Hiebert had a rough start to his collegiate career, missing both the 2015 and 2016 seasons with knee injuries.

He redshirted after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in 2015. His comeback in 2016 was delayed when he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the Bears’ penultimate pre-season game at Creighton.

The second injury was more serious and required surgery.

“That was devastating at the time,” he said. “Because I’d worked so hard to come back from the first injury and then to have my second season wiped out again by injury was incredibly trying at that time.”

Restored to health, Hiebert went on to make 86 starts for Missouri State.

“It really did come full circle,” he said of his playing time. “I remember at the time I was praying and thinking ‘Why is this happening to me? All I ever wanted to do was to come down and play and make an impact.’”

In 2019, he was part of a record-setting Missouri State team that went 16-0-0 in the regular season and won the college’s first-ever NCAA tournament game (against the University of Denver).

He appeared in all 19 games last season, helping the Bears to a stingy .573 goals-against average and 10 shutouts (. 526) in 2021.

He also scored a career-high three goals as Missouri State won its third-straight Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and second-consecutive MVC tournament championship. The Bears’ season ended in a November loss to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Hiebert was named one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy as the top NCCA player for the second year in a row.

“Looking back I realized I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if I hadn’t got injured,” he said. “So it’s interesting how five years later I get to see that it all worked out in the end.”

By The Canadian Press

soccer