With mom for motivation, Alicea’s energy reinforces team
Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
For some student athletes, joining a team as a freshman can seem overwhelming and take some getting used to. Though it has not been easy for women’s soccer freshman forward Julia Alicea, she is already able to fit in and contribute. Alicea came to Southern from Columbia, Conn., located in the eastern part of the state in Tolland County, about 20 minutes away from Manchester. Though she was born in Boston and has moved a few times, her mother has always been a constant for her, serving as her “rock.”
“My mom’s a single mom, so I’ve lived with her my whole life; just me and her,” said Alicea. “She’s a huge part of my life. She’s helped me tremendously through schooling, through everything. Whatever I needed — no matter what it took — she got it for me.”
Soccer started for Alicea when she was just three years old, and she credited her mother for wanting to get her involved in athletics early. As she played her way up from peewee ball to her high school career at E.O. Smith in Storrs, she realized that, not only was she good at it, but she also loved soccer and wanted to pursue it after high school.
“I would see older kids play soccer — not necessarily college, just high school, older people playing soccer,” said Alicea. “I always thought, like, ‘wow, I can’t wait to get to whatever it is that’s next.’ I’ve always looked to the future.”
When it came time to decide on colleges, Alicea was interested in Southern, and the feeling was mutual. On the recruiting trail, head coach Adam Cohen said he saw “a perfect fit” in her. Alicea once again credited her mother for helping her through that time.
“She would always check my email,” said Alicea. “I would always check my email, and she would say ‘look at this school.’ She was always on top of it; she was on top of me, always. She just wanted what was best for me at the end of the day.”
Now that she is at Southern, she has already contributed for her team as a freshman, and the close proximity to home has allowed her mom to come to every game this year – even when on the road. She has always been known as a goal-scorer throughout her playing days, and though she has not yet made a goal this year, she has collected two assists and attempted seven shots in 372 minutes of play through 12 games. She currently averages 0.58 shots per game and 0.17 total points per game.
“I love helping. I’ll help in whatever way possible with my team,” Alicea said. “No matter what it is, playing or not playing, but being able to contribute to anything, like a good play or a goal, it just makes me feel really happy that I can compete at this level so early.”
Though she has been able to consistently be a part of the Owls’ production on the field, it is her positive and funny attitude off the field that makes such an impact on the team’s culture. Her teammates and coaches praised her attitude and mindset while also noting her love of dancing to music in the locker room.
“Soccer-wise, she’s really hard working; she’s really strong, fast and she works really hard,” said senior Kelly Lamb. “As a person, Julia is really funny. She has great energy, and we’re good friends. I really like her, and she’s a great addition to the team.”
Alicea has most of her collegiate career ahead of her, and she would “love to win a conference championship” before she leaves. Though she has much more work to put in, her coach said he believes she can be a leader in this program going forward.
“Julia has a big personality, so that I think people are drawn to her positivity and personality,” said head coach Adam Cohen. “So, I think that, right away, Julia has the ability to lead through charisma. We just love having her be a part of our program. As I’ve gotten to know Julia more and more, she’s not just a great player but even a better person.”