It all started at Solar Soccer.
Solar Soccer is a club I played for as a teenager that helped mold my performance.
They pride themselves in “soccer advancement through development,” and that statement rings true.
I was not only being pushed to be my best; I was around others doing the same.
It creates a positive competitive culture that brings out the best in you, you know? The standard for me became going D1 and playing soccer at that next level — everyone around me was doing it.
It’s a chapter in my life I’ll never forget or take for granted.
While my teammates and coaches have always played a huge role in my success, my sister played an even bigger one.
She was with me every step of the way, guiding me and leading by example as the oldest.
Whenever I needed a shoulder to lean on or someone to run an opinion by, she was there for me.
I also like to think I’ve been there for her as I have grown up.
Some sisters have kind of awkward relationships. They seem distant and more like friendly neighbors than family, but that’s not the dynamic I have with my sister at all.
I’m beyond grateful to have her in my life and in my corner every step of the way.
I like to think that my relationship with her also contributed to my commitment to SMU.
I was longing for a similar sense of ‘family’, you know?
When the time came to make my decision, it was almost a no-brainer for me.
I wanted to play alongside good people and good culture — it was that simple.
I wanted to be surrounded by a coaching staff that cared about its student-athletes and would support them with whatever they needed.
After all, I want to play beyond my collegiate years, and having this kind of environment is instrumental to that.
So, with that in mind, I committed to SMU and never looked back.
Okay, maybe I looked back a little during my first year.
That transition can be tricky! I think the most challenging part is just the uncomfortableness of being new.
Not something anyone can do something about, everyone tried hard to be welcoming, but you still feel new because, well, you are!
So many feelings of being lost, uncertainty if you have a good routine down, and trying to feel confident and sure of yourself when maybe you’re not.
One thing I took from that experience is checking the ego at the door.
We all feel lost or new coming here, and that’s normal.
Embrace it and just be yourself and give yourself grace with where you are and where you want to be because those are likely two different places.
That’s one thing I love about my Mustangs.
We don’t have big egos on this team.
It feels like a team focused on the same goals and not just a group of talented individuals trying to win.
Now, as I’m entering my fifth year, this is still the case — but my role certainly has evolved.
As a ‘super-senior,’ I take on more of a leadership role.
In general, I’m not sure one can be a natural-born leader.
I think others have to give you that privilege.
In my case, I think other players are looking to me for guidance.
And I take that responsibility seriously.
My approach is to always focus on the teammate and their needs versus just thinking about the game. Soccer is not just a sport; it’s a way to connect with people, and I focus on the people’s needs and how it relates to the team.
Having my teammates’ back and them knowing they can trust me with anything is not just a ‘part of the job,’ you know?
Trust is needed and must be protected at all times.
I think I’m a good leader, but only my teammates can answer that question.
All I can do is be here for them, lead by example, and lend an open ear when they need one.
And after 2020 and 2021, two challenging seasons, I think that’s important to provide.
This year, I feel like we have a chance to do something special on the pitch. We have a nice mix of vets and freshmen/sophomores, and with this team, I don’t see why we can’t win our conference.
That’s right; we are setting the bar high and ready to roll!
Last year was a historic one for the university, and we are hungry for more.
One of things we all try to embrace along the way is gratitude.
We’ve been through so much these last few years, and it’s put into perspective how precious life is and that we need to cherish every moment we have on and off the pitch.
It’s not the only aspect, but having this perspective, I think, will help us to stay locked in on the moment and be our best selves day in and day out.
Yes, it’s my last year, but the journey is just getting started, and as long as we travel with grace, focus, and teamwork, I think the destination will end with us winning the conference.
It’d be a great way to end my collegiate career, but either way, it’s been a wonderful dance, and I’m just focused on each moment as it happens.