SIU soccer’s Dariana Mihalache found her home at Southern


Isabel Miller | @Isabelmmedia

Saluki freshman Dariana Mihalache kicks the ball on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 during the Salukis’ 1-0 win against the Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers at the Lew Hartzog Track & Field Complex.

By Tamar Mosby, Sports Reporter

SIU soccer has kicked off its inaugural season and Saluki fans have gotten a taste of what’s to come for the dominantly freshman team.

So far in the first season, several girls on the team have established themselves as impact players, whether it be scoring goals on offense or getting saves on defense. 

One of these players is freshman goalkeeper Dariana Mihalache.


Originally from Concord, California, Mihalache lived with her mother, father, and older brother.

Dariana’s parents are originally from Romania, but moved to California when her mother became pregnant with her. 

The freshman said that she moved around a lot throughout her childhood, but that calling a place your home isn’t about your location.

“Home is wherever your family is,” Mihalache said. “No matter where you are, if you keep a positive attitude, you can make a place home, so I would say that Carbondale is just as much my home as California.”

Growing up in California, Mihalache first started out playing basketball and eventually this led her to playing soccer.

“My basketball coach at the time had a soccer team, so that was my segue into the sport,” Mihalache said.

She continued to play both sports all the way through her high school career and even set the record at her school for most career rebounds.


In high school, she played for the Lamorinda Soccer Club, where the now freshman says she learned a great deal about goalkeeping from Muhammad Muhammad, who coached the club.

“I really liked playing for Lamorinda, because we tried to replicate Barcelona’s Tiki-Taka style of play and I think I grew the most there as a player,” Mihalache said. “Muhammad Muhammad taught me a lot and he was very smart in the way he played the game. He taught me how to start using my feet when I was goalkeeping.” 

While playing for Lamorinda, Dariana accumulated a 96.4 save percentage and helped the club win the Surf Cup in 2016.

After high school, the goalkeeper said she decided to play for SIU because of the coaching staff and the chance to play on the university’s first ever soccer team interested her.

“I read a lot about Coach Stout after talking with her at a club tournament and I trusted her to coach me,” Mihalache said. “The people here are very nice and the biggest thing for me was being able to join an inaugural team and build something because none of my friends can say they’ve done that. I think that’s extra special thing to do.”

The freshman cares a great deal about her team and makes it her goal everyday to encourage her fellow players.

“One of my main goals is to encourage my teammates to give the best effort they can every single day,” Mihalache said. “I want to hold my teammates accountable so that we can all get better.”

Freshman forward Liz Brechtel praised the goalkeeper’s willingness to help her teammates and offer encouragement.

“Dari’s best quality is her personality,” Brechtel said. “She’s very kind and she cares about the team a lot. She’s also very helpful because she stays after to clean up and helps us get extra shots in when we need it.”

Saluki head coach Grant Williams said Dariana adds not only the ability to get results on the field to the team but also adds plenty of personality as well.

“She’s obviously a good goalkeeper and has a big personality,” Williams said. “Dari has demonstrated that when she’s on the field for us she’s going to give us an opportunity to get results. She always comes to training with a smile on her face and with an appetite and desire to get better ”

Williams said Mihalache is always ready to learn when she steps onto the field.

“I think Dari’s best quality is her openness to try new things,” Williams said. “She recognizes that she has room for growth and can take criticism and suggestions. I think that is going to help her grow both as a person and a goalkeeper.”

Mihalache is not just excited to see her own growth; she is excited to see her team progress as their time at Southern progresses.

“I am always excited to see where we are going to be later on,” Mihalache said. “When we do great little things that show how good we can be it makes me excited to see how we’ll build on it. With a team of mainly freshmen, we have to build up our strength and chemistry more on the field.”

Bretchel said Mihalache’s driven attitude is what makes her a good goalie for the Salukis.

“She’s loud and isn’t afraid to get into it with anyone. She really gets us going. She adds quality to the team in the way that she makes her saves because she is capable of so much,” Brechtel said. “When she gets a save it brings up our team energy and makes us go harder.”

So far this season, Mihalache has been successful this season and is leading the team in minutes played with 635, saves with 54 and wins with two.

The freshman goalie’s performance has put her eighth in the nation in saves.

This past weekend Southern took on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros and Mihalache (results)…

You can catch Mihalache and the Salukis on the field again this Sunday in Cape Girardeau, Missouri as they take on the SEMO Redhawks. Game time is set for 2 p.m.

Sports reporter Tamar Mosby can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @mosbytamar.

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