Sept. 4, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - Mariah Nogueira was hurting. After all, there was no avoiding pain during a conditioning drill at the end of soccer practice Tuesday for the Stanford women's team.
But pain or no pain, Nogueira still led her group through the last repetitions of the "cone" drill - a series of sprints over increasing distances.
Her teammates noticed.
"Go Mariah! keep it up," some shouted.
Such a series counts as "one" in coach Paul Ratcliffe's parlance, and must be completed in an allotted time. The team completed an exhausting 10.
For a freshman trying to make a positive impression among veteran teammates, Nogueira took a big step toward that goal, even as her legs grew heavy, her teeth gritted hard and perspiration ran thick.
"I struggled with that drill before," said Nogueira, who seemed determined not to struggle again. "I really wanted to prove myself."
So far, she's done a pretty good job. The erstwhile softball star from Westminster, Calif., has started the past two matches as a defensive midfielder, with an emphasis on ball-winning and dominating in the air for the 3-0 Cardinal.
Nogueira, coming to a team with nine returning starters from a 22-2-1 season, is not taking starting assignments or playing time for granted.
"The team is so talented and we're so deep, I feel like any one of us could play the position and do well," she said.
Nogueira would have a been a highly-recruited softball player if she hadn't chosen college soccer when she was a sophomore at Marina High School in Huntington Beach. Nogueira was an All-Southern Section first-team infielder who hit .371, with 19 RBI and 13 stolen bases as a senior.
But with her background, soccer was natural choice for Mariah Meaalii Nogueira. Nogueira's father is from soccer-mad Brazil and her mother is Samoan.
"It's a good mix," she said. "I get soccer savvy from the Brazilian side and strength from my Samoan side."
In the meantime, Nogueira grits her teeth, and does what she needs to do to win respect.
"It's all about mental toughness," Ratcliffe told his weary team after that Tuesday practice. "We'll do this every day if that's what it takes to become mentally stronger."
For Nogueira, it seemed like an invitation.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics