By CHRISTIAN MORTENSEN
It might not have been love at first touch, but these days, Pima Community College student-athlete Alexis Hernandez clearly plays soccer with a passion that shows she loves the beautiful game.
“I actually hated soccer when I first played at 5 years old,” she said. “But when I was 9, I decided to get back into it and I really fell in love with the game.”
Hernandez, a 2016 graduate of Ironwood Ridge High School, is happy that she decided to give soccer another chance.
Now a sophomore forward for the Aztecs, she played a major role for a Pima squad that finished its regular season with a record of 15-4-1 and was good enough to earn a bye in the NJCAA Region 1 Tournament.
It was a successful campaign across the board for the Aztecs, as a team and for Hernandez personally. She started in all 20 games for the Aztecs this season, and led the team in scoring with 22 goals. Her final tally of 22 on the year was not only good enough for fourth overall in the region, but was also good for the 15th most goals scored in the entire nation. It was the highest total from an Aztec in the last four years.
“It felt good to be able to score goals and help the team to have a good year,” she said.
Coming out of high school, Hernandez wasn’t highly recruited until about halfway through her senior year.
She said coming to Pima was an easy decision after talking to Pima head coach Kendra Veliz.
“There were a few out-of-state schools that recruited me, but the chance to continue to play at a competitive level in my hometown is what really made my decision easy,” she said.
In her first season at Pima in fall 2016, Hernandez started every match just as she did this year, but she scored only 11 goals, half of what she registered this year.
“I think the biggest difference between my freshman and sophomore years here at Pima was my confidence level,” she said. “Coming into this season I knew I had worked hard in the off season, and I think I grew not only as a soccer player but a person as well.”
That hard work paid off for Hernandez, who in the course of the 2017 season, won the NJCAA Region 1 Player of the Week award on two different occasions and was named to the All-Region First Team at the culmination of the year.
Despite all of her success on the field for Pima, Hernandez said she has not yet been contacted by any universities about next year. She’s not stressing it, however.
Instead, she is focused on working toward earning her degree in speech, language and hearing sciences and she hopes to one day earn her master’s or PhD in audiology or speech pathology.
Regardless of how her future plays out, Hernandez feels good about her experience of playing soccer at Pima.
“Playing at Pima has been a great experience,” she said. “I’ve met so many great friends and we have made great memories together.
“Making these type of memories and being able to help the team to be successful as well, it’s something I will cherish forever.”