MUNSTER — A trophy made of cardboard, tape, a rock and a Barbie doll sits on Munster girls soccer coach Val Pflum’s desk.
The memento is decorated with red and black marker, with “Best soccer team ever” prominently scrawled across the front. Barbie, dressed as a Mustangs soccer player in black shorts and a red jersey made of athletic tape, looks like she’s seen better days.
A young Jaycee Helmer — Pflum said she was 10, Helmer insists she was six — present the trophy to Pflum after a soccer summer camp.
“I would ride my bike every single day to the camp,” Helmer said. “I don’t know what possessed me to do that but I literally painted a rock, put it on a trophy I made out of cardboard.”
Fast forward somewhere between eight and 12 years and Helmer is leaving Munster as part of the winningest class in school history. She’ll also begin her collegiate career at Butler with back-to-back Times Player of the Year awards on her resume.
“There were a lot of other girls who I thought could’ve been contenders (for player of the year), just really good players who I was able to play against this year,” Helmer said. “Even if I don’t see myself as the perfect player, an amazing defender, I know that I work I really hard. If that results in me being a really good player, it’s extremely flattering to have other people recognize it and give me awards for it.”
The Class of 2018 won 68 games over four years with three sectional titles and two regional titles. Munster was a game short of the state championship game in 2016.
All four of the seniors played significant roles during all four seasons.
“It’s crazy to think that I’ll never play with them again,” Helmer said. “It was a great experience to finish off with (Olivia) Foley, Abby (Nita) and Kendal (Ziel). They were great seniors.”
Helmer’s second is the Munster's fourth consecutive Times Player of the Year honor. She followed Jessica Flores (2014) and Saveda Majety (2015).
“I’ve been taking Jaycee for granted for a while,” she said. “She’s one of your elite defenders. If you say Jaycee Helmer, most coaches who’ve heard her name know who she is and want a Jaycee Helmer.”
Helmer anchored a defense that allowed only 14 goals this year, five of which came in two games against Class 3A champion Penn. The undefeated Kingsmen featured seven players with Division I scholarship offers and averaged five goals per game.
“She does well at anticipating where she needs to be. Her height is obviously an asset. Her strength is an asset because she doesn’t get pushed off of the ball,” Pflum said. “While she’s not necessarily a speed demon, her competitiveness causes her to run faster because she’s not going to get outran by anyone.”
Munster posted 12 shutouts this season, in large part because Helmer seemed to always be in the right place at the right time. She credits it to her study of both film and of the opponents during play.
“Honestly, my mind is pretty blank when I’m playing,” Helmer said. “One of the things that I am conscious that I do is, when a forward has a breakaway I run beside them and I just kind of wait til they take a big enough touch and I just kind of cut in. But it usually is just instinct, I guess.”
Her role will be a little different in college, Pflum thinks, with a little more offensive responsibility playing on the outside.
“It would be nice for people to use me as a role model, I guess,” Helmer said. “I hope Butler is getting a hard-working player who’s willing to do whatever they want me to do. I’ll work as hard as possible to try to be the best that I can be.”