TUSCALOOSA, Ala. During a high school all-star soccer match in Utah four years ago, Libby Probst was contemplating moving on to play collegiately for a local school, most probably Southern Utah University. Meanwhile, University of Alabama head coach Don Staley was sitting in the stands contemplating ways to get this mystery girl to throw her talents in with the Crimson Tide.
Partly at the urging of interim UA athletic director and former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, coach Staley was in town to look at another player. But, speaking to the Church News by telephone from his office in Alabama, he said he saw in Libby someone "with a style of play we have here at Alabama."
With that vision in mind, he talked to her and her family after the game, he said. Then he knew one of the first things he had to do to seal the deal was "find out if we had any Mormon churches here in Tuscaloosa."
The Church was there, Libby went there, and the coach's vision of Libby's potential contribution to the program couldn't have been more accurate. She recently finished her senior season as Alabama's all-time leader in goals, assists and points. That, despite the fact that she usually was marked by opponents to face their toughest, roughest defense, the coach said.
The school records were all eclipsed as she racked up five goals and five assists during a 14-0 win over Nicholls State in September. For that effort, she was named Soccer America Magazine National Player of the Week.
Scoring goals started early in Libby's Crimson Tide career she played in every match as a freshman in 2002 and she made the All-Southeastern Conference second team her junior season.
But with all that, she didn't leave her life out on the soccer field. When all was said and done, the climax of her competition with one of the nation's most storied sports programs may have been earning Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors in the SEC, one of the top athletic conferences in the country. Her field of study was civil engineering, an alternative she chose after discovering UA didn't have a program in her top choice architecture. She maintained a GPA of 3.67 (of 4.0).
Libby also took care of her spirituality. Blake Archibald, her bishop in the Tuscaloosa Ward, Bessemer Alabama Stake, who is also the CES director there, said Libby has served as a ward missionary and Primary teacher, and is active in Young Single Adults and LDSSA.
The daughter of Marc and Roxanne Probst, Libby wasn't overwhelmed by recruiters after graduating from Olympus (Salt Lake City) High School. So she accepted the offer of a recruiting visit to Alabama, was impressed, and the rest is history.
She admitted during a Church News telephone interview from Tuscaloosa that, despite the Crimson Tide's national prominence, "Before I was recruited, I didn't know about the University of Alabama or the SEC."
But now she knows. She said, "Playing soccer for such a great institution has been an experience in itself. It's still kind of surreal to me that I'm in Alabama playing."
A highlight, as she looked back, was her last game, a 6-3 triumph over Auburn, in which she scored two goals, one on a diving header.
Her parents were surprised by her choice to go so far from home, Libby said, but have been supportive, including making frequent trips to the South to watch her play.
Adjusting to Alabama was made easier for her because of the Church. "There's somewhere to go that's familiar," she said.
The ward is good, she said, with friendly families who support her, and she has made LDS friends.
But it wasn't like living in Utah, she emphasized. In general, not many people knew much about the Church and she got a lot of questions. She tried to be a good example for teammates and expose them to the Church. She said they were supportive and even helped shield her from some of the circumstances in which she might have been uncomfortable. At one point, she laughed, her coach called her the "Stormin' Mormon" and the nickname stuck.
Libby will be tough to replace, according to her coach, who called her a "classy kid," "one of the most honest players I've had," and "someone who will definitely be prepared for anything life has in store for her."
For now, she is looking forward to finishing her degree and moving back closer to home. As for soccer, she says she will probably just play for fun or will coach.
E-mail to: [email protected]