Breaking Down Barriers

SOFIA PANUELOS/New University

On Jan. 14, the Boston Breakers drafted UC Irvine senior Tanya Taylor as the 24th overall selection of the Women’s Professional Soccer Draft. Taylor is the first UCI women’s soccer player to ever be drafted into the professional ranks.

Taylor’s decision-making, field vision and explosive pace were the tools needed to make her one of the most dynamic athletes, but her work-ethic and drive make her potential limitless. Her final season at UCI was her best, as she tallied 11 goals and set the UCI single-season assists record with 12 in 24 games. This is a remarkable improvement from her six goals and four assists in 2009.

Her performance made her the Big West Offensive Player of the Year and she earned NSCAA All-American Third-Team honors. In addition to her athleticism, Taylor’s leadership played a huge role in helping UCI advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament this season for the first time in team history.

“She’s a very mature soccer player (and) an accomplished student here,” Coach Scott Juniper said. “[As team captain,] she’s been able to coach, help, inspire and, most importantly, lead her teammates. I think the more responsibility you give her, the more she’s going to grow.”

Taylor had amassed numerous awards during her time at Sunny Hills High School, from the 2007 CIF Division III Player of the Year to the Orange County Register Co-Player of the Year award. But from her freshman year until now, Taylor has come a long way.

“She was fairly one-dimensional when she came here,” Juniper said. “She’s been explosive with a lot of pace, and has the ability to beat people on one-on-ones. She’s been learning how to play under different kinds of pressure … It’s her decision-making where she’s been growing the most.”

Taylor‘s determination and dedication certainly plays a major factor in allowing her to be the best that she can be going forward. For the Breakers, this is an opportunity to develop and train one of the most explosive forwards to have ever played in the Big West conference. For Taylor, this is the chance to continue to live on the one thing she thrives on, competition.

“She’s driven to be the best that she can be,” Juniper said. “She’s getting better and was gathering momentum by the end of her senior year. It’s really difficult to continue as a professional women’s soccer player. She’s got her foot in the door … and knowing Tanya, she’s going to give everything she’s got.”

Taylor knows that her opportunity to play in the WPS isn’t only for her benefit; it’s for the school she loves as well.

“It personally matters to me, because it’s a big accomplishment for our program,” Taylor said. “I think getting drafted just kind of shows the rest of the nation what UCI is and how talented our team as a whole is.”

Although Taylor is known to be one of the best forwards in the NCAA, she knows that the moment she steps foot into that training camp she’s going to have to work her way up again, playing alongside players of higher caliber.

“I think it’s a lot of mental preparation, as long as I come to camp fit and ready to compete,” Taylor said, “I’m ready to give my best to make the team. I need to be mentally confident within myself and it’s definitely going to be a humbling experience.”

Taylor acknowledges all the help that she received on her journey to get to where she is right now.

“I want to thank my coach Scott, my dad and my mom,” Taylor said. “It takes a lot of parental support to get to this level. My parents come to every game. More than just financially, they were there physically and helped me emotionally.”

With a sense of maturity, humility and motivation, the possibility of seeing Taylor play a crucial role for the Boston Breakers can become a certainty.