San Jacinto, California
Elly's proudest athletic moment was earning a spot on Mexico's 2012 Olympics soccer team — but she chose to finish her senior year of high school instead. "I try not to think about it as a 'what if.'"
With soccer coaches as parents, it’s no wonder Elly Leyva and her younger brother became soccer players. “We’re known as a soccer family,” she says. “Soccer has given me a close family and group of friends,” says Elly, who started playing at age 6. Her parents, both from Mexico, currently coach youth teams at Hemet Juventus Futbol Club in Southern California.
Although Elly isn’t a fan of Minnesota winters, she wanted to play at St. Kate’s because of Coach Chris Citowicki. “He has an international perspective of soccer,” she explains, “and some serious plans to improve the University’s soccer program. It was exciting to know I was going to be part of that.” (Read an interview with Citowicki in the October 2013 SCAN.)
In her first year at St. Kate’s, this forward played in 17 games and scored three game-winning goals — including the lone one in the Wildcats’ first-ever win over the Carleton Knights. Elly earned All-MIAC Honorable Mention and was named Wildcat Rookie of the Year.
Elly is one of three social justice student coordinators in Campus Ministry who plan a variety of social justice- and faith-based opportunities for the University’s student body.
“Elly is a great fit for this role,” says Joe Kolar, campus minister for social justice. “Her energy and enthusiasm allow her to connect with students who may be exploring social justice issues for the first time.”
During soccer season, Elly takes all her classes in the morning — so she can fit in work, homework, individual training, team workouts, games and job- or soccer-related meetings the rest of the day.
“My schedule is really crazy,” she concedes, “but I’m so blessed and thankful for the life I have. Soccer is important, but so is school. My parents have always stressed that hard work outside of soccer shows in soccer.”
In the future, Elly hopes to blend patient care with more international travel. A first-generation college student, she went on Campus Ministry–organized trips last year to Georgia, Colorado and El Salvador. Her Central American experience opened her eyes to the inequality, injustice and poor infrastructure that can befall a nation after decades of internal strife.