Not long after graduating from Lehigh in 2007, soccer standout Gina Lewandowski signed with a semiprofessional soccer team in the United States, the Charlotte Lady Eagles. She didn’t think her career would take her any further.
But Lehigh head soccer coach Manny Oudin and the rest of the Lehigh coaching staff encouraged Lewandowski to give professional soccer a chance. Before ever suiting up for the Lady Eagles, she headed to another country in search of an opportunity. “I have relatives over in Germany, so I reached out to them,” she says. “They contacted some people and told me to come out as soon as possible to connect with teams out there. I took a leap of faith.”
That leap of faith paid off, as Lewandowski went on to make Germany her home. She enjoyed a 12-year professional career in the Frauen-Bundesliga and saw time with the United States National Team. Now, she is back in the United States playing in the nation’s top professional soccer league for women, the National Women’s Soccer League, with Sky Blue FC in New Jersey.
While Lewandowski achieved her dream of playing professional soccer, the path she took differed from that of many who aspire to play soccer professionally.
“You don’t have to be playing high-level soccer when you’re 12, 13, 14 years old,” says Lewandowski. “For me, it was just about enjoying the game. When I was younger, people wanted me to give up other sports and focus on soccer. I know of friends who have been burned out because they focused on soccer, or their parents were too demanding. I believe playing a number of sports helped me get where I am today.”
At Lehigh, she blossomed as a soccer player. The two-time Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year scored 15 goals in 2004, finishing her Lehigh career with 36 goals and 80 points.
“I didn't want to give it up,” she says. “As an upperclassman, I was really considering professional soccer, but the U.S. didn’t have a professional league when I graduated in 2007. I was just looking for opportunities to continue playing.”
In Germany, her goal was to play for two years, return to the United States and “move on with life.” She suffered some injuries, which led her to stay with her team to continue her rehabilitation. “I also really enjoyed the challenge of being overseas and pushing myself to grow as a player and person,” she said. “I was exposed to so many different cultures, countries and languages.”
Lewandowski played for FFC Frankfurt from 2007 to 2012 and Bayern Munich from 2012 to 2019. She also played one summer in 2011 for the Western New York Flash in the (then) Women’s Professional Soccer League. Primarily a midfielder in college, she has been a defender for most of her professional career. She played in an international match with the United States National Team in 2015, getting into the U.S. team’s friendly against Brazil.
“Getting that call-up to the national team was an added bonus and something I wasn’t expecting,” she says.
At 34, Lewandowski is still going strong. “Do what you love for as long as you can because life is short. If I’m able to play at a high level, why not keep playing? I believe I’ve been given God-given talent, so I want to be able to use it to the best of my ability for as long as possible.”