Two BYU freshmen spent time this past year playing soccer on international soil and gained much-needed experience to contribute to the team this fall.
Carla Swensen and Nadia Gomes, both forwards on the BYU women’s soccer team, expect to be key players for the Cougars in the upcoming West Coast Conference play. Swensen spent time last year competing with the U-20 Colombian team, while Gomes split time with the Portugal U-19 team.
Swensen made All-State Second Team and All-Region First Team her junior season playing at Bingham High School in South Jordan but had to make major sacrifices to play with the Colombian team. She missed her senior year of high school, but it was worth it for her.
“It was hard, because your senior year is supposed to be your fun year, your last year to be a teenager,” Swensen said. “For me it was so worth it, and I would never regret ever missing that part of the year, because it was so rewarding.”
The Colombian team failed to qualify for the U-20 Women’s World Cup, but many of the players from that team are contributing to college teams this fall.
“A majority of the girls that I was playing with in Columbia are all Division I soccer players here in the United States that were in the same boat as me and that had dual citizenship,” Swensen said.
Despite already playing in the challenging environment of international soccer, being on a new team presents its own challenges for the two freshmen, especially on a BYU team that won the West Coast Conference two years in a row.
“You can’t just be focused for a game or two; it has to be every single day,” Swensen said. “You have to be thinking of your meals and sleep and how you are going to prepare for the next day.”
Gomes moved to Utah six years ago from Portugal. She attended Brighton High School and helped her team win the 5A state championship game against Viewmont. The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News voted her the MVP of the game.
Last year, Gomes started four games for Portugal in qualifying tournaments for the European U-19 championships, an experience she said prepared her for BYU.
“Some of the things that we did there for the practices are similar to what we do here,” Gomes said. “So that kind of prepared me for this, and it’s just high intensity too.”
Getting on Portugal’s team was an interesting process for Gomes and her family.
“My dad sent out an email to the coach, and the coach said to send a video of me playing,” Gomes said. “We did that, and then he said I had to go tryout. I came back, and then they called me to go back and play in some games.”
Her team failed to qualify for the championships, but she gained valuable experience that has helped her to contribute to BYU. Gomes has played in all of the Cougar’s matches up to this point, supplying valuable playing time as a key spark off the bench. She also notched her first goal of the season and her collegiate career in a loss to LSU at South Field.
Both freshmen are well prepared for the collegiate level of play and hope to be successful this seasons and in seasons to come for the Cougars.