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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Rack em’ up: New Viking makes presence known on the field

By Brooke Wilson

Among the ranks of elite players on the Western women’s soccer team, freshman forward Dayana Diaz continues to make her presence known on the field and leaderboard as one of the newest Vikings on the block.

Introduced to soccer at just 3 years old, Diaz’s enthusiasm for the game has been front and center as a rising athlete hailing from Granite Falls, Washington.

Diaz triumphantly scored the winning goals for three consecutive games, including the 4-0 victory against Saint Martin’s on Sept. 27, a performance that gained her recognition. Shortly after, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference recognized Diaz as the first player to record a three-goal game for the season, stated by the conference in a weekly news report.

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Now with six goals under her cleats and counting, the reigning GNAC Offensive Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks has also become the seventh Viking to record a hat-trick since senior Gabriela Pelogi had a pair of three-goal games last season, as detailed in a press release from the Western athletics department.

Western Washington University women's soccer forward Dayana Diaz runs with the ball during a game against Seattle Pacific University. She is wearing a light blue uniform and socks.
Western Washington University women’s soccer forward Dayana Diaz runs with the ball during a game against Seattle Pacific University on Oct. 4, 2018 in Bellingham, Wash. The Vikings won the game 4-0 to move to 4-1 in conference play. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin

Diaz said she worked hard during the practices leading up to the game but ultimately could not have scored without her teammates who remain a strong support system for her off the field too.

A seasoned defender on the team, junior Peyton Chick commented on the relationship between players and leadership. “We balance each other out and we all have each other’s backs,” Chick said. “Our coaching staff is very supportive of us on and off the field.”

In addition to group study sessions, new recruits bunk with veteran players on campus for the first few weeks to help ease the transition period into college, Head Athletic Trainer Lonnie Lyon said.

“Being a freshman in college all by itself is an eye-opening thing, then you put this on top,” Lyon said “It’s a much different concept to accept as a role on a team where you’re no longer the key component.”

With faster and more aggressive action during games, Diaz said she enjoys the change of pace in collegiate soccer compared to her experiences on the field in years past. While growing up, she also dabbled in other sports and began playing on select soccer teams around seventh grade.

Chick, reflecting on the year she first joined the roster, said the team as a whole had been welcoming and the senior class especially encouraged the freshman to up the ante and challenge themselves.

“Every single person on this team has really stepped up to make this season great,” Chick said, noting the improved communication from players compared to prior seasons. “[The players] are constantly problem-solving during games and practices.”

In a recent game against Central Washington University, the Vikings’ five-game winning streak was brought to a halt with a tied final score on Saturday, Oct. 6 in double-overtime. Ranked number 18 nationally, the Vikings remain undefeated on their home turf. The team is ranked 11-2-1 overall and tied for second place with Simon Fraser University in conference play, reported the Western athletics department in an online game summary.

“Diaz has contributed a good amount to our attack,” Chick said. “When she channels [her energy] right, it’s amazing.”

In preparation for an upcoming match, Diaz said she tunes into her music and warms up with the ball to pump herself up.

“[Diaz is] becoming more confident in her play, because she’s getting more confident within the system,” Lyon said. “She’s blossoming into a wonderful athlete.”

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