Courtesy of NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – As the winter chill finally withdraws its icy embrace from the city, spring makes its way into hearts and homes, as flowers bloom as does the New Mexico State Aggie soccer team.
New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment has supplied Aggie soccer with some new faces for its upcoming season, and although fairly young, Rian Nials, 18, and Micaela Milavec, 19, both women bring strategy and enthusiasm to the team and Coach Freddy Delgado is eager to see what the younger generation can bring in the upcoming season.
“It’s a very good soccer community with a lot of potential and I think that when they see these young, strong females, it’s a good inspiration for them, they’re role models for the people here in Las Cruces,” Delgado said.
Nials, a goal keeper, desired early on in her high school career to sign with New Mexico State University with a dream to get her cleats on the field. That dream would come to life upon her graduation.
Born in Thornton, Colorado, Nials and her family moved to Las Cruces when she was around two years old and would attend Mayfield High School.
An athlete from the start Nials played a wide range of sports throughout her high school career, from: softball, basketball, volleyball and track and field. Yet soccer was her favorite sport of them all.
“I have been playing soccer since I was four, my parents just sort of threw me in,” Nials said.
“Rian is young but she’s very athletic and a very strong and very powerful type of player,” Delgado said. “She has a quiet demeanor but when she steps onto the field she changes a hundred percent. So I think she brings that nice balance of what we’re looking for. She’s gonna take a year maybe two years before she can get used to the college game but I think once she does that she’s going to really help our program.”
Nials graduated December 2014 and although the decision may have been well worth it, according to Nials the process of actually leaving the school was a bit tedious.
“It was kind of difficult to get out of there early because they definitely saw me as an issue, instead of like you know we’re getting rid of her early. So it was kind of hard trying to like transition because I was always set in the high school mind and then I came here and it was different because it was like more on your own. You don’t have your parents to tell you stuff,” Nials said.
Growing up in Cruces Nials lived out of town and spent lots of time outdoors staying active with hunting and interacting with wildlife, which would stem her decision to major in Wild Life Science here at NMSU.
Not the only youth on the team Micaela Milavec also grew up in Las Cruces graduating from Las Cruces High School with a desire to lace up her cleats and get on the field.
“Micaela has a soccer mind. She’s a soccer junkie,” Delgado said. “She watches a bunch of games she has favorite teams, she has favorite players, she analyzed and thought about the type and style of the world cup and certain teams in the world cup. She brings a soccer mind to it, she is a very good player but she brings more of a methodical look to the game and can see it from more of a tactical understanding.”
He added Milavec has a passion and inspiration for the game that can and will inspire the younger and newer players on the team and has the makings of a possible leader for the team.
“I think Micaela really had a strong freshman year. She showed some things on the field, she showed some leadership outside the field and of course she is a fantastic student. So she has the makings to become one of the leaders of our team; she’s still a young person herself, she’s still growing and learning a lot about herself but she has the tools to possibly be a leader next year even her junior season,” Delgado said.
Playing soccer since she was five-years-old, Milavec was influenced by both her parents and her brother who played soccer as well. She has also followed in their steps as to choosing her major and future career.
“I want to go to dental school and become a dentist. My dad’s a dentist, so I really want to follow in his footsteps and my mom’s as well, she’s in the medical field too, she’s a nurse. They’ve always been really good, they always work hard and they’ve earned and put in that effort to get those jobs,” Milavec said.
Growing up in Las Cruces both Milavec and Nials had their heart set on attending NM State and joining the Aggie soccer program.
“My dad graduated here and then it’s just always been my school. When I was a freshman I was like ‘Oh I should go here’ but every time I would always come back in here and there are so many more benefits of just staying here,” Milavec said.
Nials states that her biggest accomplishment would be having the chance to play college soccer. With the help of her parents in deciding to enlist in the Aggie soccer program she is provided with an outlet to be the best she could be.
“We always wanna do our best to keep the local players here in town. It’s two fold, they come with a certain intensity and feel a certain amount of pride that maybe somebody else coming from outside of the city or outside the state has. So they play with a little bit of extra passion and that’s something that I think is important. I also think it’s extremely important because they’re role models for the community,” Delgado said.
The difference in caliber of play from the high school game to the college game has encouraged the two to work even harder to secure their spots on the field. As well as the juggling act required for a full-time athlete and student.
Milavec states that the biggest problem she faces is missing school because of soccer, although it can be difficult, Milavec always makes sure to speak with professors about assignments and obtains notes from her classmates.
“It’s more intense, I mean in high school its more laid back but in college it’s definitely different because everyone wants to play, everyone wants that starting spot. But my biggest challenge is probably just trying to balance everything and fit school, social life and soccer together,” Nials said.
“The biggest thing that I noticed for Rian was the fact that she was willing to go the extra mile,” Delgado began. “She was willing to do anything and everything to make her family proud, to make the city proud, to make her high school proud, to make the university proud. When you have somebody that has that type of attitude you know that they’re going to give the extra, go the extra mile and take that extra effort to be successful.”
Both Nials and Milavec express the joy that comes from being on a team that is close-knit and works together. Milavec mentions that the team constantly pushes one another to work harder and is often able spend time together off the field.
Delgado explained that you have some people that come in that have never heard of New Mexico State until they were contacted and its entirely opposite for these kids. They’ve grown up with crimson, they bleed crimson, they root for all the teams, they’ve grown up going to all the games; and when you’ve experienced that throughout your life you’re willing to go that extra mile and put the team on your back at certain points just to be successful.
“Together these two I think are bringing that pride, that passion of what it takes and what it means to be a New Mexico State Aggie,” Delgado said.
The Aggies are in the midst of their spring workouts with scrimmages against Fort Lewis and Adams State in Albuquerque at St. Paul High School. NM Sate wraps up its spring schedule April 26 against Eastern New Mexico.