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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Melendez brings passion to Arizona soccer

Colin+Prenger+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUA+soccer+vs+LMU+on+Sept.+16%2C+2012
Colin Prenger / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA soccer vs LMU on Sept. 16, 2012

As a 12-year-old, Susana Melendez sat on the sidelines as a ball girl, dreaming of the day she could wear an Arizona uniform. Now, as a senior, Melendez is a starting midfielder for the Arizona women’s soccer team.

Melendez will lead the Wildcats as it hosts No. 2 Stanford at 7 p.m. at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium. The game will also be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

In 2008, Melendez’s childhood dream came true as she joined the Arizona soccer team as a walk-on. Even though she redshirted her freshman year, Melendez said she had great aspirations for her career as a Wildcat that required a lot of work.

“Basically, when I came in, I had to improve everything,” Melendez said. “I had to be faster. I had to have a better touch. I had to be stronger and be able to take everything to another level.

Sometimes it was hard putting in so many extra hours, but it was completely worth it.”

Melendez was one of 10 freshmen who joined the team in 2008, but is one of just two from that class who have remained on the team for their entire careers; the other being fellow senior midfielder Jessica Culver, who also redshirted.

In 2009, her collegiate debut season, Melendez transitioned into the physical style of Pac-12 soccer by playing portions in the last 10 minutes of seven games.

Gradually, Melendez’s playing time increased as a result of her tremendous work ethic, and over the last two years she has found herself helping her team as a strong presence on the field.

Last season, Melendez scored the first goal of her career, which she has doubled this season, tying senior Culver, junior midfielder Ana-Maria Montoya and sophomore midfielder Julia Glanz for second-most goals on the team.

“She is a great ambassador for our program and for Arizona athletics in general,” head coach Lisa Oyen said. “I knew her as a youth player because she played here in town. First and foremost, she has a great character and is very respectful. In addition, she is incredibly hard working and has an attachment to the game. She watches it a lot, which allows her to pick up on things not a lot of the other players do.”

According to Oyen, Melendez is considered the “team mom” because she takes care of everyone and leads by example, which Oyen said she will miss when Melendez is no longer on the team.

Junior forward and midfielder Jazmin Ponce is one of the teammates Melendez has taken under her wing for the past three years.

“She always keeps my head up,” Ponce said. “She is such a positive person and someone you can always count on. She keeps me motivated throughout the game. She’s been my best friend since I got here and is special to us.”

Melendez said her last season as a Wildcat will be a bittersweet and emotional time.

“It is really hard to think that this is my last year of soccer,” Melendez said. “I’m really excited for senior night, but I’m trying to avoid it in my head because it is a lot to leave. Over the five years I have spent in the program, I have dedicated a lot of time to it. So it’s going to be hard letting go and moving away from it, but then again, I’m excited to see what the future brings.”

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