Andy Hackbarth ’12 describes himself as a pretty laid-back guy. Except when he’s playing board games. Or soccer.

Even in Monopoly, he is a “stickler” about rules, and takes even the slightest elements of competition to the extreme. He says that he can be over the top, but he loves to win, and doesn’t mind “just kind of rubbing things in other people’s faces.”

This intensity has served him well as one of the men’s soccer team’s eight freshman. Hackbarth has distinguished himself as a strong, versatile player who is an integral part of the group both on and off the field.

As a defensive center midfielder, Hackbarth links the defense and the midfield, he said, and provides a kind of defensive toughness as a physical player in the center of the field.

“I’ve always been the ball-winner,” he said.

Though Hackbarth played attack in high school, head coach Brian Tompkins said the team had enough forwards. He added that Hackbarth will probably play defense next year. And while he said that Hackbarth needs to work on dealing with pressure and maintaining composure on the ball at all times, he also praised the freshman’s athleticism and competitiveness by noting his physical presence on the field.

Captain Alex Guzinski ’09 added that he was very impressed with Hackbarth’s sound fundamentals, but also his “tough edge” and “cutthroat” playing.

These qualities have helped Hackbarth in a solid first season with the Bulldogs. He has three points and one assist and has started in nine of this year’s 14 games. He headed in a pass to score his first collegiate goal — and the only Yale goal of the game — in the match against Penn last weekend.

Hackbarth said he was drawn to the sport because it’s beautiful to watch and it’s a balance of physicality and technicality. He likes that a team can’t just give up points.

“Every goal matters,” he said.

But beyond his tactical skills, Hackbarth has also asserted himself as a motivator for the Bulldogs. Tompkins described him as a spirited guy with a great engine.

“He lifts people,” Tompkins said.

He first cultivated his love for soccer in his hometown of Bend, Ore. — “three hours from everything,” as Hackbarth put it.

In a town of less than 80,000, Hackbarth’s commitment and skill stood out at Summit High School. He helped his high school team get to the state playoffs four years in a row and finished his career there with 28 goals and 38 assists. He won two state championships with the Westside Metro Gunners, his club soccer team in Portland. He earned all-state honors all four years in a row, and was a first-team all-state selection as a senior.

But Hackbarth’s success at soccer has not come without costs. His father drove 24 hours a week to get him to and from club practice. Hackbarth was a nationally ranked alpine ski racer until his sophomore year, when the competition became too tough for him to progress in both sports. But skiing is a hard sport in which to progress professionally, he said, so he chose soccer.

“I had long ties to soccer,” Hackbarth said.

He hopes to succeed as a professional soccer player and is happy to be getting a Yale degree just in case his hopes don’t pan out. Though he has not yet decided on a major, he’s leaning toward history.

For now, though, Hackbarth is working on adjusting to New Haven and his studies — he said going through midterms was hard — but he added that being a part of the soccer team helped him with the transition. The team spends a lot of time together, both in practice and informally, Guzinski said, and Hackbarth has already become an important part of the group, especially with the freshman.

“I know he reaches out to everyone,” Guzinski added. “[He] makes an effort to spend time with them.”

This is in keeping with the way Hackbarth sees himself. He’s straightforward, he works hard and he enjoys being with friends. But most importantly, he plays soccer.

Every goal will count in the Bulldogs’ last three games. But no matter the outcome, this year will have been the beginning of Hackbarth’s significant influence on the team.

“Certain things only come with experience,” Tompkins said. “His biggest impact is yet to come.”