Sept. 22, 2009
Lobo Women's Soccer
What: Lobos vs. Northern Colorado
When/Where: 7 p.m. Wednesday -- UNM Soccer Complex
Online: GameTracker, live streaming, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
When Jess Quador came down from Denver to begin her new soccer journey as a Lobo, she probably didn't have to worry much about what to bring, what to pack in her luggage.
That was one of the agreements between Quador and Lobo coach Kit Vela - come to New Mexico, be a Lobo, but bring no baggage. Of course, the accord between the two had nothing to do with suitcases or carry-ons. It was emotional baggage and Quador definitely had some to leave behind.
"I had gotten to the point where I was actually depressed about soccer," said Quador. "I had lost my passion. I was even thinking about staying in school and just not playing soccer."
Which would have been a huge waste of talent. When Quador enrolled at Colorado University, she was considered to be one of the top high school prospects in Colorado.
Quador was one of those All-Everything types of athletes: All-State, All-District, Female Athlete of The Year at Chatfield High (Littleton). Heck, the blue-eyed blonde was even Student Body President.
She didn't do badly as a Buffalo either. In 2006, there were only three Buffs named to the All-Big 12 team and Quador, a freshman, was on the league's All-Newcomer Team. She had three goals in 2006, all game-winners.
"She has perseverance and she never, ever gives up. Every team needs that kind of kid that is an unsung kid," said her CU coach of the award. "You see her after the game and she is full of grass stains because she's been down on the ground tackling and doing the dirty work."
After a freshman year like that, you would expect that Quador would go on to live happily ever after as a Buff. It didn't happen. For Quador, there was a coach-player conflict that couldn't be resolved.
"I was playing more out of fear of the coach than love of the game," she said. "I don't like to play like that." So, Quador found herself looking at one of those life-decisions that even hit the young.
Quit soccer and stay at CU? Move on and try to recapture the passion?
"As a competitor, it's awful to think about your sport ending," said Quador. "My friends and family talked me out of it."
Quador went looking for a team and a former club teammate, Samantha Bevis, shared her experience as a Lobo. "Sammie said so many good things about Kit and Jorge (assistant Jorge Vela) and how it was like a second family for her," said Quador. "And I wanted to be close to home."
The next step in the process was convincing Vela that Quador would be a good Lobo and not a problem Lobo. Like most coaches, Vela likes to build a foundation of freshmen. But when you have a chance to grab one of the top players out of the Big 12, you open your mind a bit.
"I usually don't care for transfers," said Vela. "There is usually a reason they are leaving and there is some baggage. I told Jess straight up and she understood and said she promised she wouldn't bring any baggage.
"Oh, she had some (baggage), but mostly it was lack of confidence."
There was another factor in Quador becoming a Lobo. A CU athletic administrator put in a plug for the young Buff. "He said she was a great leader and spoke highly of her character," said Vela. "He said, "Colorado's loss will be your gain.' I completely agree with him.
"Jess is a great leader. She is vocal and hard working and she believes in what we are doing and she believes in me as a head coach."
Most importantly, Quador also believes in herself again. The confidence is back. She is passionate again. She is nasty again. And Quador takes no offense in being called nasty, ornery or tough.
"Thank you," is the response from the 5-foot-3 senior. "My mom always told me that big things come in small packages.
"I might not be the biggest kid out there, but I will hit you and I will hit you pretty hard. I learned early that nobody was going to give me anything because I'm a little kid. I love going at the big girls."
Said Vela: "She is hard. She is nasty. She is a competitor. She brings a lot to the field."
What Quador, a team captain, brings to the Lobos, isn't something to be found simply in stat lines. Oh, she has a goal this season- her first and only as a Lobo. She has a game-winning assist. But there is a drive for winning and an appreciation for her second-chance embrace with soccer that is contagious.
Quador may or may not have checked in luggage when she came down from Denver two seasons ago, but all she ever needed to be a good Lobo was something she carried on - something beating strong in her chest.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.