Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
UTEP soccer senior Lauren Crenshaw has accomplished a lot in her three years with the Miners.
She’s been an All-Conference USA performer. She’s earned both C-USA Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week Awards. But for her final act as a senior in 2019, she has aspirations that go beyond any individual accolade; she wants to be a leader for first-year head coach Kathryn Balogun’s young squad. It is an especially important task, given that nearly half of the Miners’ roster (11 of 24) will be freshmen.
“It’s definitely a big responsibility with 11 freshmen and only three seniors,” Crenshaw noted. “It definitely makes me feel like a mom almost on the team. I’m responsible for them in teaching them how things go not only with college but with life. Balancing school and soccer is really hard but I think it’s really good (that they learn).”
It is a role Crenshaw is certainly prepared for. She has been a staple in the lineup after arriving in the Sun City in 2016, starting 56 of 57 games played. The Gilbert, Arizona, native has displayed a versatile skillset that has allowed her to compile 29 points (11 goals, seven assists) while playing both as a defender and midfielder.
In years past, Crenshaw has chosen to lead by example. Yet she understands that with a new coaching staff in place and a young squad overall, a more intentional leadership approach is required this fall.
“I’ve now taken more of the role of leading more with my words,” Crenshaw said. “(I’m) encouraging people and telling them the right from the wrong. It’s really important to me because UTEP soccer is part of a family. If I don’t take care of my family and do what I need to do on the field and be on a leader, then I take it personally.”
As far as getting ready for the season, though, it was business as usual for the three-year starter.
“I’ve always prepared myself pretty well,” Crenshaw stated. “I know I need to be fit. I know I need to come back strong and healthy. This summer, I don’t think I’ve done anything different than I’ve done in the past.”
Aside from setting an example for her younger teammates, Crenshaw will also play a vital role in the team acclimating to a new style of play under Balogun.
“The style of play is a lot different, which I think will be good in developing us,” Crenshaw said. “We are going to be a lot more defensively organized. I think our goal mainly is not to give up a lot of goals, like we did last year. Offensively, we want to be possessing a lot more and hopefully controlling the game.”
As far as the way she has played, Crenshaw knows that it will be a different approach for her in 2019. At the same time, though, she believes that it will be beneficial for her.
“I’m definitely more of a runner,” Crenshaw said. “I like to run at people a lot more and like to high pressure people a lot more, but I think this is good for me as well to learn how to play different styles and with different people.”
Changing coaches, let alone styles, prior to a senior year is not an easy situation. But Crenshaw has not let it diminish her demeanor, as evidenced by her efforts in the season-opening draw against Wyoming on Aug. 22. She started the match at outside back, and used her unique skillset to provide the game-tying goal in the 76th minute.
“I’m super excited,” Crenshaw said. “The three years I’ve had here so far have been really good. It’s gone by really quick. I’m excited. Hopefully I can make a lasting impression on the soccer program, and not only that but the girls as well.”
Above all, though, she wants to give everything she has for the betterment of her teammates and the program as a whole during her final go around.
“My goal individually is to leave on a good impression,” Crenshaw said. “I told myself that whether we go 0-20 or 20-0, I just want to know that I gave everything I had to this program and left it all out there.”
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