Hart High School alumnus Derek Waldeck felt a little extra motivation entering his fourth year as a midfielder for the Stanford University men’s soccer team. Not only because it would be his final collegiate season playing for the team, but because of how the previous campaign ended.
After winning back-to-back NCAA Division 1 titles in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Stanford faltered in the 2018 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals against Akron to effectively end the pursuit Waldeck’s third consecutive and the school’s fourth straight championship.
“That definitely motivated me in the offseason to work and prepare as best I could coming into this last year. Obviously, there’s the motivation of senior year being your last go-around,” Waldeck said of the added motivation.
“Collegiate soccer is a pretty cool experience just getting to be in a locker room where everyone is experiencing very similar things. You are living with these guys, so that is very motivating for me. Knowing that this is the last time that I get to be in an atmosphere like this before things like this change in the future.”
Using the extra push, Waldeck is having his best season yet and others have taken notice.
Setting a career-high in goals (four), assists (eight) and points (16), Waldeck was recognized for his success this season as one of eight Stanford all-conference selections.
Waldeck was selected to the All-Pac 12 first team along with redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Andrew Thomas and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Ousseni Bouda. Waldeck attributes this year’s individual success to hard work and added confidence throughout the year.
“For example, I’ve been on set pieces for our team since I was a freshman, but have continued working time after time on free-kick deliveries, corner-kick deliveries and stuff like that so I could be as dangerous as possible,” he said. “Additionally, being more and more comfortable and confident with myself has allowed me to take a few more risks in-game scenarios where I might have turned and had some doubts before.”
Waldeck is no stranger to awards, as he was named to the All-Foothill League first-team twice (2012 and 2013), combining to score five goals and seven assists in 13 games played over the two-year span.
Focused on the task at hand before the quarterfinal matchup against No. 3 ranked Clemson on Friday, Waldeck and the Cardinal understood that they had to accept the past in order to create a new future.
“We talked a lot within our program about wisdom and how it’s only something that can be gained with experience,” Waldeck said. “I think I’ve gained a lot of confidence from the wisdom that I have, having played in three quarterfinals in three years. We were fortunate to win two of those then lost last year.”
Defeating fellow Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) programs like Louisville in 2016 and Wake Forest in 2017 in the semifinals, the Cardinals and Waldeck needed penalty kicks to collect the win against Clemson.
Waldeck assisted on Stanford’s first-half goal in the 35th minute as Tanner Beason headed in a Waldeck corner kick.
With his eighth assist of the season and the 21st of his career, Waldeck moved into a ninth-place tie with Corey Woolfolk.
“I go into each game telling myself I want to affect the game however I can and if that is getting an assist on the stat sheet that’s wonderful, if it’s scoring a goal wonderful, if it’s making tackles here and there that need to be made that you might not see on the score sheet, but will help win games, I want to do that as well,” Waldeck said.
“I really do love the aspect of being able to set others up. I think that speaks about the kind of teammate that I want to be. I’m a guy who definitely, it’s great to score goals, but I love seeing other people score as well.”
Defeating the Tigers, 5-4, in penalty kicks, Waldeck and the team advanced to their fourth semifinal contest in five years where the No. 2 ranked team in the country, Georgetown, awaits them at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Selflessly sacrificing his own personal success for the betterment of the team, Waldeck cemented just what it’s like to be a winner over the past four seasons in more ways than one.
“I think a legacy is a lot more than just wins and losses, conference championships and national championships,” Waldeck said. “…the legacy that I want to leave for those who have played with me is just knowing how hardworking and how selfless I can be on the field. I’m willing to do some of the dirty work that might not always be noticed. Like I said, just doing that other stuff that allows other people to flourish and shine.
“At the end of the day, the team’s success brings me a lot more joy than any personal success that I’ve received.”