Written by Cheyanne Mumphrey
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The stadium lights are on, highlighting the cleanly cut grass, freshly white-painted lines and the NAU soccer team is ready to take on their opponent for the night. This is a typical fantastic Friday night for fútbol in Flagstaff at Lumberjack Stadium.
For senior Torey Braly, it is another chance to contribute to the defending 2014 Big Sky Conference Champions and to continue doing what she loves — being an athlete.
Braly started playing soccer at the age of four after her parents put her in every sport.
"I actually didn't like soccer at first," Braly explained. "But my mom made me finish the season. She said, 'You can never quit something you started.'"
Braly took that to heart and never quit, getting through four years as a letter winner and starter at Mingus High School. She also holds the records in goals scored in a season as a freshman with 17, goals scored in a season with 39 and goals scored in a game with six.
She didn't know she would play collegiately until the opportunity presented itself, "My sister went to NAU and my dad is an NAU alum as well and playing soccer was all I ever knew."
Her dedication and love for the game grew throughout the years and her inspiration from her dad allowed her to be the best athlete she could be.
Braly has now competed in over 50 matches, switching between striker and defender. An incredible athlete, Braly has even competed collegiately as a sprinter on the track team.
"Torey is an incredibly gifted athlete; she is at a level that allows her to compete not only as a soccer player, but also compete as a track athlete at the Big Sky Conference level," head coach Andre Luciano described. "That makes her special, because she can use her athleticism to take over a game on both sides of the ball. She can be a great attacking presence for us or she can be a great defender for us. Not too many players can play both sides of the ball; you're either a great attacker or great defender and she has the ability to do both."
Braly has played all 10 positions except goalkeeper. "I like beating people, so any position where I can use my speed or track someone down is something I enjoy," she explained.
Wherever she is needed, Braly does her best.
"Her track background gives her the perspective that she needs to get herself in the mental zone before doing anything, because in track as a sprinter, what you do on the starting blocks really does matter," explained Luciano. "She withdraws herself a little bit from the group to go through a mental check in terms of being prepared."
And she always delivers. Playing both sides of the ball can be extremely difficult for one athlete, but those who can do it, like Braly, are valuable athletes to have.
Just in the 2014 Big Sky Conference tournament alone, Braly played in multiple positions. She scored a critical goal in the quarterfinals to help the team get to the semifinals and even was awarded an All-Tournament selection for her play as a defender.
"It is a remarkable trait for anyone and when she knows what her role is, she goes into it and is fantastic," exclaimed Luciano. "She provides us that flexibility to be dynamic as a team and she is great in a variety of different roles."
For Braly, it is about the work ethic, "For a 90-minute game, and sometimes more, you have to have a strong work ethic to stay focused and push through."
She elaborated by explaining that the root of motivation and work ethic for any athlete is the love they have for their game. You have to want to be better and hold yourself accountable, it is a goal Braly has for this year.
"I want to leave the program satisfied with what I contributed, leave with no regrets and say I did everything I could," she explained and she can't do that by being idle.
Braly works in the gym twice a week, compared to the once-weekly schedule the team is on. In addition, she focuses on getting a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night and increasing her water intake, especially when she's had coffee that day.
By the time game time comes, Braly is ready to go.
"Early is on time, on time is late," she said. That is one of the many life lessons Luciano instills within the team dynamics.
"My job here is to not only coach soccer, but it really is to prepare them for the next stage of their life," Luciano stated. "It is really important that little life skills get taught outside of the soccer field and a lot of the stuff we do on the field pertains to their life skills later on as well."
She arrives early, sits in the locker room and prepares for Friday night. She eats a Snickers bar and banana together before every game and ties a bow in her hair while she "gets hyped" to "Notorious Thugs" by The Notorious B.I.G.
She is ready. She stays ready. For this game and all the games to come, Braly does what she does best — compete.