From the sounds of things, former Mountain Vista High School soccer player Taylor Evans is doing right well at her new home, Duke University.
She finished up her high-school career with 10 goals and an assist for the Golden Eagles last year. Then, it was off to Bluedevil country.
“I chose Duke because of the competitive environment and the excellent athletics, along with the nationally-ranked education,” she said. “It was important to me that I chose a school that was a top soccer program, but also top scholastically, and there are very few who have this combination.”
Her first visit to campus was in eighth grade.
“I knew .. that this is where I wanted to go, and I have been fortunate enough from that point forward to build and deepen relationships with the program” she said. “Having this much history with them, before I ever showed up on campus, has proven important. The people on this team are already like a family to me and such a welcoming community.”
Distance from home was a factor in her choice of college.
“I love Colorado and know that is the place I want to go back to after college is over,” she said. “So, I wanted to go explore another place during these four years. I also was looking forward to going somewhere that no one from my hometown was going so I can establish further independence and my own path.”
Evans hasn’t settled on a major yet. But she’s thinking about a neuroscience degree with a minor in psychology and a focus on sports performance and medicine. Before all that, she wants to play soccer abroad or be drafted to play soccer in this country.
Through two games, Evans has had one shot on goal out of two shots she’s tried.
“Adjusting to college soccer has been challenging, but also amazing. I love to be in an environment where I am pushed to become better every day,” Evans said. “Everyone on the team is the elite of the elite and is highly ambitious. So, it’s humbling to be surrounded by so much talent.”
Evans said the speed and intensity of college soccer are much higher than what she experienced in high school.
“But this is also what I had hoped for,” she said. “I’ve been seeking an environment that will challenge me and push me to higher levels. It requires adjustments, especially as a freshman.”
Aside from that, Evans said everything else “is about the details.”
“Is the pass in the air, floated, driven, on the ground, into space, with spin, no spin, which foot, left/right and which part of the foot, inseam, outside, laces, etc.,: she said “There are hundreds of small decisions you have to make and execute within fractions of a second.”
Academic support is available through the athletic department and the school.
“There is access to tutoring and a place called the K-Center, where athletes can go to study and get tutor help. All students have access to multiple libraries throughout campus they can go to and other academic resources to get help with as well,” Evans said. “There are countless other ancillary assistance that they provide that meet essentially any circumstance.”
She’s also learning a little something about time management.
“The major thing throughout being a student-athlete that I have learned over time is to not procrastinate,” she said. “Between practices, travel, school and games, it has been very essential in my time management to use a planner. This is so I know what I need to get done each day and so I don’t feel too stressed.
“Having a structure and a plan has proven critical as there is no margin for error with all the time spent on soccer and school,” she continued. “If you get off a little bit, you can quickly get off a lot. These are all life lessons that are a challenge at the moment but are helping me develop skills that I’ll be using for a lifetime.”
Evans said the easier part of time management is the help of school staff.
“The staff is amazing at letting us know what we have weeks before so that we can plan out and be prepared,” she said. “Duke prides itself in placing academics at the top and excelling as athletes. I’m also in the same boat as all my teammates, and so we all help each other hold ourselves accountable and that motivates me.”
Evans also explained the flip side of time management.
“The harder aspect with it is how much we travel within season and balancing that time while missing class,” she said. “Doing both (NCAA) Division I soccer and school are equivalent to two full-time jobs, and no matter how well-prepared you are, it takes adjustments and improving on your process to be able to handle the workload of both.”
Evans said the adjustment has been smooth.
“For being so far away from home, I have felt very comfortable and happy in this new environment,” she said. “The team is filled with amazing people that have made me feel a part of such a family culture. The academics are amazing, but also, for sure, challenging, which is great.”
Evans had some advice for future female college athletes.
“Respect for female athletics is on the rise, and opportunities for girls to earn athletic and academic scholarships are attainable,” Evans said. “I feel so honored to be granted this opportunity and want to encourage others to pursue it too. It’s not easy and it will take sacrifice. But combining athletics with academics can be a viable and powerful pathway to obtain the American dream.”
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