Rachael Collins, a
senior midfielder for the women's soccer team, reflects on her four years as a
student-athlete at Pepperdine and the legacy that this senior class will leave.
The Waves round out their 2016 regular season at Pacific on Saturday with a chance
to lock up a WCC championship for the first time in five years.
Q: You are about to play your last regular-season game as a Pepperdine Wave. What kinds of emotions are running through your head?
A: I am really excited! We have a huge opportunity ahead of us that we haven't had all my years here at Pepperdine. It is definitely going to be a bittersweet moment, but I don't think that it is going to be the last game, so I am so excited for this team and what we are capable of doing and what opportunities that we have been given.
Q: Have your preparations this week been any different because of what is at stake?
A: Not at all. You want to keep it the same and you don't want to hype a game up just because of what is at stake. I think we did hype the LMU game up a little too much. This week, we have kept all our preparations normal and tried to keep it consistent to what we have been doing all year long.
Q: Even though you are trying to keep it consistent, is the prospect of a championship still on your mind?
A: Yes, but it is still just another game. Obviously, there is a lot to play for, you can't write that off, but it is another soccer game. We have been playing this game for so long, so I think that we as a team are ready.
Q: What would it mean to bring the WCC championship back to Malibu for the first time in five years?
A: It would be huge. It would be such an accomplishment, especially with where we have been the past three years that I have been here. To bring it back here would be incredible. We have a military theme this year, and this game is being called Operation: Bring It Home, so to bring the trophy home would be such a big deal for this team, and such a big deal for this program, and for the university as well.
Q: Has this season been different than previous seasons solely based on you being a senior?
A: I guess maybe a little bit. We as seniors have really felt like we want to give it our all this year. Not that we haven't given it our all the other years, but this year especially. This is it for a lot of us. It is coming to an end so we have everything to play for and everything to work for, but with nothing to lose. I think that in the back of your mind, you have the mindset of, "This is it, lay it all out there no matter what."
Q: What has your experience as a Pepperdine student-athlete meant to you?
A: This sounds cliche, but it has meant the world. I have learned and grown more as an individual, and more as a person than I think I would have anywhere else, as well as if I had not been a student-athlete. It's given me an identity; it's given me so much character. I will take life lessons from my four years here, and without a doubt will use them for the rest of my life.
Q: You mentioned that it has given you an identity. What has that identity become?
A: I think that the
identity of a student-athlete is that you are a leader worthy of being
followed. You have been able to do something that over half of the population
will never be able to do. It is the knowledge that you can go above and beyond
and raise the bar in anything that you take on from here on out.
Q: What has been your best memory from playing soccer here at Pepperdine?
A: There are really too many, but a couple that stick out are the USC and North Carolina games my sophomore year. The North Carolina game because that program is such a powerhouse, that as a little girl, you grow up admiring that team. They used to be the only school with a really good women's soccer program, which now is not the case of course, but to play them and beat them on our home field was just so much fun. And the USC game because it was so cool to have half of the school down at the field, with all of the other athletic programs there was incredible. To see them storm the field when we won the game in PKs was just incredible. It can never be taken away from us. I will never forget the unity that we as a team and the university had during those games.
Q: What kind of legacy does your senior class hope to leave? And do you think that you have succeeded in leaving that legacy?
A: I hope that our legacy is that this program will always be different from other programs. Different in the amount that we work, and the amount of team unity that we have. I have never seen, in all my years here, a more unified class than our senior class, and I hope that continues. We have obviously had our ups and downs, but I hope that our legacy is sticking together, no matter what you are going through. I hope that we raised the bar. And whether that is winning or not winning a WCC title, that we raised the standard to what team unity looks like and what hard work looks like.