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Monday, May 20, 2024

Moriba Atiba Baker’s winding road

Life as a normal UW student can at times be overwhelming. Sometimes it just does not feel like there is enough time in the day.  

 

 

 

But imagine being a varsity athlete'balancing hours of homework with endless hours on the practice field and weekends spent not relaxing, but traveling through Big Ten country playing the toughest competition in the nation. Also imagine the stress of being a team captain, whose leadership and play must be tireless.  

 

 

 

On the other hand, imagine the pressures of being a foreign student'not only not knowing where Grainger Hall is, but being unaware of what a bratwurst is or who the Packers are, all the while expected by your teachers and peers to fit in. Imagine combining the pressures and time commitments of both these lifestyles. What would you get?  

 

 

 

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You would get a glimpse into the life of Moriba Baker, senior goaltender for the Badger men's soccer team. 

 

 

 

As his resume suggests, Baker is no average goaltender, and while he is poised to be one of the best goalies in UW history, he is also one of the most unlikely. 

 

 

 

Baker's story begins thousands of miles away in Trinidad, where he was born in 1980. For those of you who aren't geography TA's, Trinidad is a tiny tropical island off the coast of Venezuela, with a population of 1.2 million and an area of only 1,980 square miles.  

 

 

 

Baker grew up playing soccer in Trinidad. 

 

 

 

'I can't remember when I started playing, but I was very young,' Baker said. 'Instead of basketball hoops, we had soccer fields. And we played wherever we could.' 

 

 

 

At the age of 12, Baker began playing goaltender, which not only earned him a ticket on an under-17 national team but also admission to UW. Badgers Head Coach Kalekeni Banda knew the coach of Baker's national team and recruited Baker for UW. 

 

 

 

'My coach organized for me to come here,' Baker said. ' I considered other smaller schools, but Madison was definitely the best.' 

 

 

 

At Madison, Baker has had to adjust to the physical nature of Big Ten soccer, and he said that was one of the biggest challenges when coming to Wisconsin. 

 

 

 

'I needed to get tougher,' Baker said. 'Here, I get a lot more hits and I am not the biggest guy.' 

 

 

 

Baker has used all of his 5'10', 145-pound frame to dominate the goal box in his career with UW, but Baker does not dwell on his size. 

 

 

 

'When other people underestimate me, I use it as an opportunity to show them [something],' Baker said. 

 

 

 

As Baker moves through his final season with the Badgers, he's moving up on the UW career lists in many categories, including the all-time saves and career wins. But Baker's not concerned with records, however.  

 

 

 

'I try to keep [my performance] up, [the records] are just something that they write about,' Baker said.  

 

 

 

Instead of focusing on records, Baker is concerned with his team's inconsistent play. After picking up easy wins early on in the season, the Badgers have hit hard times, falling to Penn State and Indiana to open Big Ten conference play.  

 

 

 

'It's been a roller coaster,' Baker said. 'Sometimes we play extremely well, sometimes you just shake your head.'  

 

 

 

Baker said the team's frustrating inconsistency stands in the way of its preseason goals, namely achieving a winning record at home, emerging with a winning record in the Big Ten and earning a berth in the NCAA tournament. Baker said these goals are still obtainable, however.  

 

 

 

And while it is far from his mind at this point, Baker is looking forward to spending a summer in Spain after he graduates in the spring, backpacking through the region and hopefully finding a place on a European roster.  

 

 

 

Hopefully, as Baker's career in Madison winds down, the rest of the UW community can find time to watch one of UW's finest athletes finish a truly brilliant career. 

 

 

 

Surely it's worth the time.

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