That’s the distance between Long Beach State University and NC Courage’s soccer stadium.
That distance takes you from the West Coast to the East and through eight different states.
But the path I took to get there was much longer.
It had more peaks and valleys and far more detours and reroutes.
It’s been a wild journey, that’s for sure.
The early days
It all started back home in Torrance, California.
I fell in love with the beautiful game at an early age. My parents were serious athletes growing up — my mother ran track, and my dad played football and baseball.
So, they allowed me to try any sport I wanted.
A neighbor mentioned me playing in AYSO, so I gave soccer a chance and was hooked.
Since day one, I was going full-speed, making tackles, and establishing my presence on the pitch. And to be honest with you, it really was that ‘aggressiveness’ that got me interested in the sport.
Soccer is a physical sport. Everyone knows that.
But it’s not just about endurance, you know?
You better be ready for some serious contact — and I loved that.
As I was growing up and improving as a soccer player, it was time to start thinking about playing at the next level.
When that time came, I made my decision quickly and easily.
It was LBSU.
I already knew Jeff Joyner, LBSU’s Associate Head Coach, having played for him at the club level, and I was impressed with the program at Long Beach State. The style of play was appealing to me, it was a top 25 program, and the education was excellent.
I loved the underdog vibe the team has despite its success. We’re going up against big programs like UCLA and holding our own, and I embraced being at a smaller program taking on these bigger universities.
When I decided to commit to LBSU, it raised eyebrows, but it made perfect sense to me. It was a match made in heaven.
I still remember writing my name on Mauricio’s whiteboard as a way to say I was coming to play here. Years later, when I did arrive, Coach still had my name on his whiteboard.
He never took it off! I thought that was such a great touch, and it was amazing to me that he just kept my name up there all that time.
Bumps on the road
Becoming a student-athlete at Long Beach State was awesome.
While I instantly felt at home, the chapter sure came with some challenges.
What I would arguably define as my biggest challenge at the time turned out to be one of my biggest blessings.
When I first came joined the program, I didn’t see much playing time. Because of some injuries on the team, Coach moved me to a new position — center back.
I’ve never played that position before. Frankly, I just didn’t think of myself as a natural center back.
So, it was a major adjustment. Not just on the pitch, but mentally as well.
Fast forward to today, and if it wasn’t for that position switch, who knows if I’d have ever turned my dream of becoming a professional soccer player into reality.
In retrospect, I think it was one of the most important things for me to learn. Like, I needed to embrace change and be open to new things.
It served me.
It served my team.
It served Long Beach State.
I was starting to get more and more comfortable with my new position before an injury in my sophomore year would sideline me for more than 14 months.
Four minutes into a game at Santa Barbara, I was chasing down the ball, and while attempting to take it from an opponent, she kicked my foot while it was in the air.
I was going fast, landed at a bad angle, and my knee just gave in and went sideways.
It was horrific.
I tore my ACL, LCL, Calf tendon — well, I tore everything, really.
My doctor compared the injury to a motorcycle accident.
It was brutal.
Fortunately, I was surrounded by teammates that had my back. Especially Ashley Gonzales.
She experienced a similar injury just months before me, and her guidance was priceless.
It was a long and painful road with moments of doubt and fear, but with help from my team, I was able to return a year after surgery.
It was hard to come back, and I had mental and physical hurdles to overcome, but I did it.
I finished my collegiate career at LBSU and even earned some prestigious awards and accolades along the way.
And at the end of last season, I decided to give myself a chance at joining the NWSL. So, I declared for the draft.
In full transparency, though, I had no expectations for the draft.
No LBSU player had ever been drafted to the NWSL, so I understood the challenge ahead of me.
I was good either way.
I was okay with being a discovery player or joining a training camp as an undrafted player.
I just stayed in contact with my coaches and prepared myself for whatever outcome.
So, when I got drafted by NC Courage in the first round, I was floored. It was a moment of euphoria that was indescribable. To be surrounded by everyone I love and all of us being shocked and thrilled with this wonderful news was a moment I’ll never forget.
That sense of accomplishment and achievement stayed with me for weeks.
It was like winning a championship.
It was a soccer lifetime achievement award, and the prize was becoming a professional athlete.
Sharing such a life-changing moment with my loved ones made it all the more incredible.
And while may have been the first LBSU player to get drafted, I certainly won’t be the last.
I can tell you that.
As I look forward to my career in the NWSL, I can’t help but look back on my time at LBSU and smile. I went through so many ups and downs, and that journey led me to where I am today.
People may have been curious why I picked LBSU way back, but now the answers are obvious.
It’s a great soccer program, an even better school, and filled with amazing people.
I’ll always rep Long Beach State wherever I go, and I can’t wait to see where this next road takes me.