High School Sports

Switch to defense pays off for Freeburg sophomore who commits to Oklahoma

Katie Houck is just 15, but she’s already proficient enough in soccer to make Oklahoma University excited about what she can add to its program.

Houck, a sophomore at Freeburg High School, has given the Sooners a verbal commitment. The center back who plays for St. Louis Scott Gallagher in the Elite Clubs National League, selected Oklahoma over Texas Christian, Florida Gulf Coast, Illinois State, Southeast Missouri State and Austin Peay, among others.

Houck took unofficial visits to Oklahoma, Texas Christian, Austin Peay, Illinois State and Southeast Missouri State.

“I stepped on (campus) and I could see myself there for four years,” said the 5-foot-7 Houck, a Smithton native who previously was a midfielder and forward.

“My coach (Ralph Richards) put me at center back (in 2016) because he saw me as a better player back there. I’ve been a center back ever since,” she said. “I get to see the whole field in front of me. I can see everybody and where they’re moving. I would rather have the field in front of me than behind me. I felt like I was more comfortable back there.”

Houck still gets her share of offensive opportunities. Her dominance in the air makes her a part of Scott Gallagher’s corner kicks and other set pieces.

“I go in there for headers,” Houck said. “And (Richards) lets me go up with the ball sometimes and make some plays.”

Houck is the youngest of eight children (four boys, four girls) born to Bill and Barb Houck. Bill Houck coached the Belleville West boys soccer team from 1985 to 2000 and the West girls soccer team from 1994 to 2001.

“(Katie) is probably the only one I haven’t ever coached,” said Bill Houck, who nonetheless knows plenty about Katie’s game. “She’s strong defensively; she uses her body well. Any ball that’s in the air, she can either clear it out or put it in the goal. She communicates very well. Everything in a center back you want, she’s got. Now, she still has to work on her touches, but she’s only been playing the position for a year and a half, two years. She’s taken to it well.”

Katie Houck said having seven siblings has its benefits.

“Whenever we would just play games at our house, everything was a competition,” she said. “I think that’s where I picked up my competitive (instincts).”

Oklahoma, coached by Matt Potter, struggled this season, finishing 3-13-4 overall and 1-5-3 in the Big 12. There were 13 freshmen and sophomores on the roster. The freshmen will be seniors by the time Houck arrives in fall of 2020.

Last year, Oklahoma was 14-7-2 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Sooners were 10-7-3 in 2015.

Houck, who tentatively plans to major in a field related to physical therapy, said she’s glad to have made her college decision.

“It is a big deal,” she said. “I’m just glad the opportunity came to me and that my work is paying off.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm