Ari Sanchez: Respected on California Pitches, Madrid’s Not So Much

This week, TSL talked with Ari Sanchez PO ’14, captain and center back for the Pomona-Pitzer women’s soccer team. A senior Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major, Sanchez’s solid defensive play all season has helped the Sagehens reach second place in the SCIAC standings, only one game behind California Lutheran University for the top spot. Taking a break from her busy soccer schedule, Sanchez talked to TSL about how she got started playing soccer and all the superstitions that come with the love of the game.

TSL: How and when did you start playing soccer?

Arianna Sanchez: I was four years old and I played AYSO [American Youth Soccer Organization] with a bunch of boys; I liked playing with them. My family friend coached the team. He actually ended up being my baby sister’s godfather. His son was my age, so I played with him and just never stopped.

TSL: Did your family influence you in any way?

AS: My dad played soccer a lot; he really enjoys it. 

TSL: Have you played any other sports?

AS: It’s funny, actually. When I was seven I got fed up with playing with the boys, so I played softball. Literally the worst experience of my life. I was playing with the nine-year-olds. I was so intimidated and had no hand-eye coordination. I realized it was not for me when my dad took me to the batting cages and I got hit with the ball. He was like, “You’ve gotta learn somehow!” And I was like, “Okay, not doing this anymore.”

TSL: Did you play soccer in high school at all?

AS: I played for my high school team and a club team. In Southern California soccer season is in the winter, so club stops during that time. I was able to play for my school and out of school. It was year-long; I never took a break.

TSL: Do you follow club soccer?

AS: Yeah! My favorite team is Arsenal. I’m really into the English Premier League. I studied abroad last spring in Madrid. I liked Real Madrid before then, but I went to three Champion League games while I was there so I’m a bigger fan now. It was the coolest thing ever. I also like the US men’s national team. 

TSL: You mentioned studying in Madrid, how was that?

AS: It was the best. Although, there was one downside. I was voted captain and knew I had to stay in shape while I was away, but there is no way for women to play sports in Madrid. Everyone there was like, “You’re American and you’re a girl, so no.” It was like Bend It Like Beckham. I’d go out and ask people if they needed an extra player and they all said no. Aside all that, Madrid was awesome. I liked the freedom and being away from home. Since I’m from Southern California I’ve never been away like that before.

TSL: What is your favorite pre-game meal?

AS: I actually don’t really eat before games: My stomach is very sensitive. My sophomore year especially I’d feel really nauseous. I’m very superstitious in everything I do, so now I get scared to eat a lot before games; I just sort of pick at things.

TSL: What’s your favorite meal in general?

AS: I know this is boring but I really like pasta. I’m a really big fan of whenever Frary has ribs and macaroni and cheese. If they have that, you know it’s going to be a good week. 

TSL: Do you have any other superstitious rituals?

AS: Last year I was especially superstitious. I would do the exact same thing before every game. If I didn’t, we lost. If both of my legs didn’t crack, if I didn’t braid my friend’s hair, I knew we’d lose. Now I put my stuff on in the same order. It has to be the same and I have to wear the same earrings. I also have to wear my matching pink underwear, sports bra and sliders to every game. I don’t wear them for practice. Also, last year we started this thing, I think I might be the only one who still does it: We wrap our wrists in tape and write messages on them. Every game we ended up winning I wrote “Breathe, connect, SCIAC.” Sometimes I forget to breathe; connection with the ball is important and one of my weaker spots, although I am getting better. And then SCIAC because last year we got our butts kicked in the finals and I don’t want that to happen again. 

TSL: How often do you wash your shin-guards?

AS: Oh … Never. But I wash my shin-guard sleeves after every game! This is sort of gross, but last year I got cleated and didn’t cover it up and wore my shin-guards. The cuts got infected and I had to sit out a game. Now I’m super cautious about open wounds.

TSL: What’s been your most memorable game?

AS: I think everyone on my team who’s been here the past couple of years can agree that beating Cal Lu last year in the SCIAC semi-finals was the most memorable. We barely got into the tournament; we only did because someone else lost. We had never beaten Cal Lu before, at least not in my career, and then we beat them in overtime. It was the strangest goal. We watched it and thought it wouldn’t go in. And then all of a sudden, the whistle blew telling us it was a goal. It was such a happy moment.

TSL: Is there anything fun you guys do for team bonding?

AS: During preseason, we go to the beach, which is fun. It’s nice to bond away from soccer. Our team is a family. It’s so cheesy, but we are friends off the field and out of season. We eat meals together; we celebrate birthdays together. It’s nice to be a part of something that’s bigger than you and to know that everyone is working towards the same thing. I love my team.

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