Score of a lifetime for collegiate athlete

Belles student-athlete sets out on the road to 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

By Mbulelo Maqungo
On January 31, 2020

 Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications Department: Gabby Villagrand, sophomore, runs the ball past a Lubbock Christian University defender.

 

ASU soccer’s Gabby Villagrand was invited to play for Panama’s national team in an Olympic qualifying tournament on Jan. 28. For Villagrand, soccer has been a cor­nerstone in her life for as long as she could re­member, but she never imagined that her fa­vorite sport would lead to competing on the biggest stage in the world.

Villagrand, a sophomore kinesiology major, will leave San Angelo Jan. 24 for her hometown of Houston, Texas, to start prepa­rations for Panama’s first game against Costa Rica.

“I had met some of the national team’s coaches through my uncle.” Villagrand said. “Afterwards, right around the time I complet­ed my application for dual citizenship, they reached out to my family and asked how I would feel about playing and I said ‘sure!’”

Villagrand often travels with her par­ents and younger siblings to Panama City, Pan­ama and credits this opportunity to her experi­ences there.

Panama’s women’s soccer is a rela­tively new team compared to other national teams, competing in their first Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Women’s Cup in 2002. CONCACAF is one FIFA’s six continental gov­erning bodies that’s main function is to orga­nize competitions and qualifying tournaments for the World Cup and women’s World Cup. Besides the World Cup tournaments, all these governing bodies hold competitions to select who qualifies for the Olympic Games. With 40 other nations to contend with, the Pan­amanian national team has made tremendous leaps and bounds to get to this tournament.

As excited as Villagrand was for the in­vitation, the process also required change and adaptability in other aspects of the young stu­dent-athlete’s life.

“I definitely didn’t want to pass this chance, but it would mean I have to miss two weeks of training, lectures and exams here,” she said. “It feels like a lot, but when I expressed all of this to my mom and dad, we all agreed that this is an opportunity that may never present itself, so I shouldn’t waste it.”

Villigrand will even have the oppor­tunity to play against the U.S. women’s soccer team, the reigning World Cup champions.

When Villagrand isn’t dominating on the soccer field, she can usually be found study­ing, watching “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Friends” or hanging out with her fellow Belles.

“We’re all super close,” she said. “The girls are basically family to me here.”

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