Not everybody is built to face an object traveling upwards of 50 mph aimed at them repeatedly over 90 minutes.
For Alyssa Palacios, becoming a soccer goalie was an innate function, one that was fused with past experience and family tradition.
“A lot of people were scared of the ball,” Palacios said of why she became a soccer goalie. “It came to me more naturally. I was already kind of catching it when I was younger. Also, my older sister was a goalie first and I wanted to be like my bigger sister. Once I was put at (goalie) I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
That prowess between the posts allowed Palacios, currently a junior kinesiology major, to earn a Division I scholarship from The University of Texas at El Paso to continue her passion for soccer and earn a college degree.
Palacios wasn’t always just into soccer. For years she also played volleyball and basketball. Once she got to a certain age, her soccer club coach said she needed to commit to one sport.
“I liked soccer the best and I couldn’t stop playing it,” she said.
Part of Palacios’ education while at UTEP has included learning about El Paso and herself.
“I was kind of nervous coming here because it’s a new place and I didn’t really know anyone that well,” Palacios said. “My mom said, ‘Alyssa, you’re going to have 24 friends naturally.’ I feel like the cool part is having the team, the girls.”
After initially being hesitant about attending UTEP, those reservations went away once the Dallas-area native visited the campus and El Paso became a second home to her.
“I didn’t think the campus was going to be as beautiful as it is,” Palacios said of her recruiting visit. “I was here for a Friday night game and that was unreal how much the stands were packed and everybody was so into it. I thought it just looked really fun.”
Her family — especially her extended family — were nervous about her attending UTEP. Now they are unofficial ambassadors for El Paso.
“My parents come to so many of the games and they try to bring different family members, too,” Palacios said. “The family that have come out here love it, too, and they want to come back. My family would say, ’Now that we see it, we love it. We’re comfortable with you being there.’ You just have to see it to understand.”
Palacios has been solid on and off the field, earning the following honors:
- 2017 Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll
- 2016 C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll
- 2016 All C-USA Third Team
- 2015 All-Freshman C-USA Team
She started 58 straight games throughout her UTEP career before sitting out a couple of games in fall 2017 due to injury.
“Alyssa embodies UTEP soccer,” said UTEP Head Coach Kevin Cross. “She is tough as nails, and she will do anything for UTEP soccer to make a save. She has rewritten the UTEP soccer goalkeeping record book. I am so thankful for her ‘saving’ us so many times.”
Palacios’ plans after graduation aren’t set in stone. She is contemplating taking a year off after graduation to attempt to play soccer professionally overseas as one of her cousins did. She eventually wants to return to the United States to coach or work in sports marketing.
But all that can wait. For now, Palacios is ready to enjoy her senior year, her second home and continue to be thankful for the opportunity a Division I scholarship to UTEP has provided.
“It’s meant everything (to me),” Palacios said of the scholarship. “I just knew if I didn’t go through soccer I wasn’t going to get the full college experience of getting to live in a dorm and the whole campus life. I’ve been able to meet all these people from different places and do different things. I am so grateful I get to go to school and play soccer.”
Raise the Pick: This is part of a series about UTEP student-athletes who share their unique stories and how athletic scholarships have made a difference in their lives. Each of these students reflects on the value of their UTEP experiences and the opportunities they create for the future.
Visit minerathleticclub.com to learn more about the Raise the Pick campaign.
Author: Leonard Martinez – UTEP Communications