“Definitely Bittersweet”: Senior defender Madz Ham reflects on her GVSU career

#9 Madz Ham.  GVL / Archive

#9 Madz Ham.  GVL / Archive

Kellen Voss

Anyone who grew up watching USA women’s soccer in the past 20 years knows that the last name ‘Hamm’ is synonymous with success on the soccer field, and that’s exactly the case for Grand Valley State, as senior Madz Ham’s final season with the Lakers draws to a close.

Although her name is spelled differently, GVSU’s Ham has had an impressive career in Allendale, being the proverbial quarterback of the Laker defense and earning an All-GLIAC first team selection last season. 

A great representation of a student athlete, Ham also earned a GLIAC Academic All-Excellence in 2016, as well as being named a CoSIDA Academic All-American last season.

Growing up, the GVSU senior saw Mia Hamm as one of her idols, as well as falling in love with soccer watching stars in the MLS.

“I always loved Mia Hamm. We share a last name so I may be a little biased,” Ham said. “I remember watching guys like (Landon) Donovan and (David) Beckham, I love those guys.”

It wasn’t until her freshman year of high school that Ham realized she could play soccer at a collegiate level when she had a conversation with one of her assistant coaches she will never forget.

“He asked me if I wanted to play college soccer, and I said ‘I’m not sure’ and he said ‘you have the talent, and if you’re willing to put the work in, you can do it,’” Ham said. “That boosted my confidence and made me realize that’s something I could do.”

After fielding offers from numerous GLIAC schools in high school, Ham realized that GVSU was the place for her because of their dedication to their student athletes.

“A lot of little things are what make this program good and separates it,” Ham said. “A lot of schools win conference games and have accolades, so I think the amount of success GV has had, mixed with how much they care about the details is great, and that’s what drew me to GVSU.”

Majoring in public and non-profit administration, Ham has a plan for after graduation and is excited to execute it after she hangs up the cleats.

“After I graduate, I’m looking for jobs in local government, or at a non-profit,” Ham said. “I’m planning on moving back to Detroit, my fiancé and I will be moving to the Detroit area and looking for jobs around there.”

Ham has made major strides in her time with the Lakers, starting her freshmen year as a rotational player before working her way up to becoming the anchor of the defense in her final season. She credits that improvement to her better understanding of the game mentally.

“It’s been getting better mentally, there’s a lot of things I didn’t understand as a freshmen, but now I see why they’re so important,” Ham said. “Once you buy into the program, buy into the system and see why we do things, that helps mentally to understand and helped me grow emotionally as well.”

Ham was one of four GVSU seniors celebrated on senior night last Sunday, Oct. 14, and while Ham is sad to see things come to an end soon, celebrating with her teammates is something she’ll never forget.

“Our teammates are amazing, they decorated the locker room and got us senior gifts which made the day so special,” Ham said. “It was amazing how the coaching staff set up everything, especially the dinner after the game. It’s a sad reminder that my career here is coming to an end, so it’s definitely bittersweet.”

The GVSU women’s soccer team has yet to lose this year and has only given up five goals through 16 games thanks in part to the pristine defense led by Ham. Heading into the postseason in the next two weeks, Ham says the team morale is high.

“We’re obviously a young team with only a handful of upperclassmen, so we know we have a lot of work to put in,” Ham said. “But I think everyone’s real excited to put our nose down, grind it out and hopefully it can pay off and we’ll have a lot of success moving forward.”

The team’s last regular season game is at home on Friday, Oct. 26 against Davenport. Ham and the Lakers will look to finish the year undefeated and carry that momentum with them into the GLIAC tournament.

“With this young team, the more we can set ourselves up for success will be key,” Ham said. “We obviously keep looking to play as long as we can, but it’s one game at a time, and just making these incremental steps will pull us through.”