By Caleb Barron
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Two days earlier, the MU Women's Soccer team had received bad news. Their season was over; they would not be going to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore midfielder Dominique Richardson and her teammates had the day, and for that matter, the entire week to relax and get away from the sport. Richardson did not take the opportunity, electing to go through a series of stretches and prep work in the Missouri Athletic Training Complex. Resting on her laurels has never been Richardson's preferred style.
The second Dominique Richardson walked onto the University of Missouri campus she was competing for a spot in the starting lineup on a team that had won back-to-back Big 12 Championships. The precocious Fullerton, Calif. native has always been the type to challenge herself. An opportunity in Division I athletics proved to be no exception.
"I just wanted it really bad," Richardson said. "As a freshman, you can't be afraid of taking an older person's spot. If you want it, you have to go for it."
Richardson got her spot, starting all 19 games as freshman. More than just keeping the field warm, Richardson buried three goals, including a game-tying free kick from 40 yards out against Depaul, and chipped in three assists. Her impressive debut season earned her All-Big 12 Newcomer honors and recognition as one of the Top 100 College Freshman in the nation.
A quick review of Richardson's pre-collegiate resume lends credibility to her immediate success at MU. Only 19 years old, Richardson has amassed quite a trophy case. She made a noteworthy double-dip in high school, winning both the Fullerton High School Inspirational Athlete of the Year and being named Orange County Athlete of the Year during her senior year. Richardson believes she won these awards for her well-rounded approach.
"Soccer and basketball were during the same season, and all four years of high school, I did both at the same time, while maintaining a high GPA," said Richardson. "I was also in our student body my senior year."
Richardson did not limit herself to high school competition. She helped get her club team, Legends FC, off the ground and was named to the Under-20 U.S. Women's National Team. Among all her early accolades, Richardson counts competing for the national team against some of the top players in the world as her greatest achievement. She even met a soon-to-be teammate in competition.
"That's where I met Kaysie [Clark] the first time," Richardson said. "I think we are really good friends now. It's just cool to meet someone that you don't know that well that is coming to the same school as you."
The 2011 season featured Richardson taking the next step. Although she starts as a defensive midfielder, Richardson's six goals led the team. She was selected as one of CollegeSoccer360's Prime Performers of the Week and to Soccer America's National Women's Team of the Week the first week of September. She also was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team at season's end.
All this brings us back to the training room. Richardson knows that she hasn't gotten this far by staying still. There is more work to be done.
"You have to stay humble. You can get all these things, but if you stop working for them, you're not going to get them anymore."
Growing up on the west coast, Richardson notes the style of play was decidedly different than it is in the Midwest. Players in California thrived competing with a high-level of technicality, while Missouri required more effort and physicality. The move east forced a change in Richardson's mindset and, again, more preparation.
"Coming here was different. You have to get into it more; you have to be more into the game," Richardson said. "Instead of just sitting back and letting the game come to you, you have to insert yourself into it."
Richardson has had little problem inserting herself into contests, but continues to make the difficult seem easy through repetition. She says staying cool and calm is a key element to her success in the midfield.
"You have to be smart and collected under pressure. There are a lot of times when you get the ball at your feet and you have three people running at you and you have to find someone. You have to keep your composure."
Richardson strives to be as composed off the field as she is on. Her involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has her saying she "competes for a higher purpose." Richardson wants to set an example through sports. She believes FCA has given her and her teammates that opportunity, all the while creating better team unity.
"I think that's brought our team really close this year because a lot of our team has bonded through that. It's really big for us."
Richardson is a young woman of respect; for her teammates, her school and the sport. She believes she was given a gift and it's now her responsibility to protect it.
"I think soccer kind of picked itself," Richardson said.
It goes without saying, the University of Missouri Department of Athletics is so glad it did.