Mimi Eiden was younger than 6 years old, but she remembers soccer in Liberia.

"Girls weren't allowed to play soccer," Eiden said. "I would always sit there and watch the boys play and wish I was out there."

Eiden's journey in life has taken her from the sidelines of a West African country to becoming one of the stars of the Division I Summit League in the United States.

UND's 5-foot-3 junior forward leads the Fighting Hawks in scoring and is third in the Summit. She leads UND into the program's first Summit League tournament appearance Thursday against Denver.

"Her work ethic and ability to make an impact on the field through sheer tenacity, her strength on the ball and her dynamic ability on the dribble make her a handful for any team," UND coach Chris Logan said.

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Eiden came to the United States when she was 6 and was adopted by Glen and Darla Eiden into a family of 17 in Forest Lake, Minn.

"It's fun being in a big family," Eiden said. "We have a big yard, and we always went out to play soccer. It was fun. I really think they helped me be the player I am today."

Fighting Hawks forward Mimi Eiden (9) boots the ball away from the Montana Griz defense Friday afternoon at Bronson Field. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
Fighting Hawks forward Mimi Eiden (9) boots the ball away from the Montana Griz defense Friday afternoon at Bronson Field. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks HeraldNick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Holidays are interesting with a family of 17, she said. So are group text messages.

"We're all super close," Mimi said. "We have a group chat, and we're always making fun of each other."

Mimi grew up playing with her brother Callan Eiden, who's a senior defender for the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.

"It helped playing with the boys," she said.

Eiden, who now speaks English with ease, said she struggled with the language initially.

"I actually knew French, but I had no one to speak French with, so I had to learn English," Eiden said. "I'm not saying I'm a pro, but English was easy to pick up because Liberian has some broken English."

Out of high school, Eiden originally committed to former UND head coach Matt Kellogg, but she had a connection with Logan and stuck with her college choice.

"She was on UND's radar when I got here," Logan said. "I had seen Mimi play at a camp when I was at North Dakota State. I knew she was a good player, so at that point it was just make sure she was a good fit for my personality."

UND sophomore forward Mimi Eiden slams a header during Sunday's matchup against rival NDSU at East Grand Forks Senior High. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
UND sophomore forward Mimi Eiden slams a header during Sunday's matchup against rival NDSU at East Grand Forks Senior High. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Eiden has played extensively for three seasons now at UND. As a freshman, she was second on the team with seven points. As a sophomore, she scored two goals and had three assists.

Her production has taken off as a junior, where she has eight goals including three game-winning goals.

Eiden has elevated UND to its first-ever Division I conference tournament as a fully transitioned program (UND played in the Great West Conference tournament).

The Fighting Hawks needed the help of a couple of Summit League results on the last day of the regular season to earn the No. 4 seed and draw top seed Denver. The tournament will be played at Fishback Soccer Park in Brookings, S.D.

UND and the Pioneers, who have qualified for the NCAA Tournament 11 times, play at 3 p.m. Thursday. Denver beat UND 7-0 in the regular season.

UND enters the conference tournament at 10-7-1. In Logan's third season, it's the most wins in a season for the program since the 2006 team went 10-8-2 in the Division II North Central Conference.

"I really want us to go out there and play with passion and love for the game," Eiden said. "I don't want too much in our heads and just think of it as another day of playing the sport we love and give it our all. If we do that, we can have a good outcome."

UND's Mimi Eiden keeps her eye on the ball as she sprints down the pitch at East Grand Forks Senior High during Friday's match against Portland. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
UND's Mimi Eiden keeps her eye on the ball as she sprints down the pitch at East Grand Forks Senior High during Friday's match against Portland. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald