Featured Athlete
Kackie Dankbar
Kackie Dankbar
Women's Soccer
September 26, 2014

Hometown: Bloomington, Minn.
High School: Benilde-St. Margaret's
Major: Elementary Education with a Special Ed endorsement

She's a leader on one of the top defensive teams in the country. Yet Kackie Dankbar still flies a bit under the radar.

The senior is an anchor for a nationally-ranked St. Ambrose women's soccer team whose defense has posted 17 shutouts since the beginning of the 2013 season.

Dankbar arrived at St. Ambrose in the fall of 2011, following in the footsteps of her parents (Bill and Molly Dankbar) and brother (Andrew), who all graduated from SAU.

She came in as part of a freshman class that included fellow defender Bre Choffin and goalie Morgan Lynn that helped form the team's defensive backbone.

At times last year, the defense, which finished second in the country with 13 shutouts, got overlooked on the team's path to a Midwest Collegiate Conference championship and a berth in the NAIA Playoffs, especially in the shadow of Ashley Dexter's assault on the SAU school scoring records.

"Last year we spent a good chunk of the season as the No. 1 defense with so many shutouts. But how can you compare that to what Dex did, setting all those records. She had a phenomenal year," Dankbar said. "I'd rather have all of that than none of that."

But this year, with Dexter now serving as an assistant coach after having graduated with career goal, assist and point records, more focus is on head coach Jon Mannall's defense.

And the group led by Dankbar, Choffin and Lynn deserves it. Four shutouts, a 1.17 goals-against average, allowing two or more goals in just three of 10 matches have all helped No. 23 St. Ambrose become a fixture in the 2014 national rankings.

"Jon tells us our goal is a clean sheet for the day," Dankbar said. "If we give up a goal, there's nothing we can do; we just can't let them get a second. But we come out with a clean-sheet mentality."

Since Dankbar's arrival on campus, the Bees have won two conference championships and made two of their three all-time trips to the national playoffs. However, St. Ambrose has yet to get out of the first round of the 32-team tournament in its three trips.

"We want to win conference and the conference tournament, and have the highest ranking in our history, but we also want to make it to at least the Elite 8 of the National Tournament," Dankbar said. "We have lofty goals."

The easiest path to the National Tournament is to win the MCC Tournament and grab an automatic bid. The road to the conference crown begins Saturday with a 1 p.m. match against Viterbo.

Viterbo is one of two teams, along with Grand View, receiving votes in the national poll. Last year, the Bees knocked off the V-Hawks 1-0 in overtime in the MCC Championship game. Dankbar had the assist on Erin Dierickx's game winner.

But Viterbo and Grand View are just two threats in a vastly-improved conference in 2014.

"Every team in our conference comes to play so we have to make sure we come to play every game," Dankbar said. "Even a team like AIB that struggled last year as a new program has come together and is much improved."

Along with another conference title and a return trip to the National Tournament, Dankbar still has slim hopes for her own personal achievement. With 9 career assists, including the one that lifted the Bees to the 2013 conference tournament title, Dankbar is still looking for her first collegiate goal.

"As an outside defender, I'm looking to get the ball in to score, not actually score myself. I'm the last defender back on corners and set pieces so we don't get scored on. And as long as we score, I'll do whatever I can to help. But I would love to score a goal. If I ever did, it would be a long-range shot, one of those, 'Oops, I meant that to be a cross, but I'll take it.' "