After being selected as the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Player of the Week during the week of Oct. 4, women’s soccer athlete Sophia Esparza shows the teams of the Capital Athletic Conference what it means to be a St. Mary’s Seahawk.
Sophia Esparza, now a senior varsity athlete on the St. Mary’s women’s soccer team, was born on June 27, 1988 in Bethesda, Maryland, the daughter of Marco Esparza and Elisa Diehl, who played field hockey at the collegiate level.
At age five, she began playing soccer at the recreational level.
“My parents were into it,” said Esparza, “and my friends were in it, so there was an interest early on.”
Following the sport into her early school years, Sophia joined club soccer in fifth grade, continuing to play into her high school years at Montgomery Blair High School.
Coached by Bob Gibb, Sophia played on the varsity level for four years, helping to bring the team to the all-division, all-county, and all-state levels while still making honor roll in the academic side of her high school experience.
Throughout her experiences in high school and into college, Sophia didn’t feel pressured into playing the sport of her childhood.
“My parents didn’t push what I didn’t want to do,” said Sophia. “They weren’t those crazy parents, but they were always into [the game].”
After leaving high school, several factors led Sophia towards St. Mary’s.
“I had come to soccer camps here, and my cousin had gone to St. Mary’s,” she said.
“I loved the campus and the idea of playing soccer here at a small school rather than a large school. There was not too much doubt in my mind.”
Beginning on the defensive side of the game, Sophia played as a center backfielder for her first two years as a Seahawk, learning the differences between the high school and college levels.
Under Coach Brianne Weaver, then entering her first season as head coach, the team set a 12-6-2 record and attended the CAC Conference Championship game.
“Sophie is one of the most gifted athletes in the history of St. Mary’s women’s soccer,” said Coach Weaver.
“She quickly earns the respect of opposing players and coaches in every game that she plays and she should be incredibly proud of the success that she has helped the women’s soccer team earn.”
During an out-of-country game in Italy, Sophia began her transition to her current offensive position on the team, playing as center midfielder at the beginning of her 2008 season last year.
However, the team was posed with a major challenge this season with the addition of a large number of first-year players.
“We had played with the same team for the first three years I was here,” Esparza said.
“With lots of new players this year, we just needed to start clicking again.”
Playing soccer at the college level offered Sophia a different perspective of the sport.
“I had more time with the college players, and it was an experience to play against other countries,” she said.
More recently, a major influence in Sophia’s soccer career has been Beccah Bernard, a former assistant coach for the Seahawks.
After playing soccer together at Montgomery Blair High School for a year before Bernard left for college, the two athletes met at the Seahawks Soccer Training camp and maintained contact.
“We still talk all the time about the games,” said Esparza. “And it’s good to talk to her when I’m frustrated about how a game went.”
A senior at St. Mary’s, Sophia plans to leave the college next Spring with a degree in Sociology, hoping to continue playing soccer after school at the club team level.
“I don’t want to stop playing,” she said.
“And if I miss it and want to try something else more competitive, we’ll see.”
In terms of the rest of this season, Sophia feels that the team will be ready for the CAC Championship, saying “we can do well if we stay focused.”
The College women’s soccer team next plays at home on Oct. 24 against Salisbury.