By Alex Alford
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Freshman Tatyanna Lewis has been described as outgoing, hardworking and a great teammate on and off the field. Her coaches realized what an asset she would be immediately after seeing her play for the first time and her current teammates realize the talent and capabilities she possesses.
From the outside looking in, it might seem like Lewis was always meant to be part of Baylor’s team. Currently at 8-5-2, the team has benefited from Lewis’s abilities on the field. However, Lewis’s journey toward playing soccer for Baylor University was not always clear.
At first, Baylor wasn’t on Lewis’s radar as far as colleges went. In fact, Texas was the last place she planned on attending. But once she visited, it all started to fall into place.
“I came here about three years ago,” Lewis said. “I guess I just fell in love with everything; the people and the coaches. There was just something in me that was saying, ‘you need to go here; this is where’re you’re going to grow and become a better person on and off the field.’ “
Just as Tatyanna sensed a connection with Baylor, Co-Head Coach Paul Jobson sensed a connection too.
“Through the recruiting process we recognized her right away as somebody who could be a shutdown defender, because she is extremely fast,” said Jobson. “We recognized what we thought would fit in really well with what we do, and we saw it pretty quickly with her.”
However, Lewis’s journey toward deciding on Baylor proved more difficult than both coach and player anticipated.
“At first it was hard to get her to come visit because it was so far away and it was a great expense to come from California to here, so that was the hardest part was to get her to come on a visit,” said Jobson.
Adding to difficulty, Lewis’s mother was not able to accompany her on her Baylor visit, and Lewis traveled halfway across the country alone.
“My mom didn’t end up coming; it was too expensive. She said to me, do you want me to go? We can work to make this happen.’ And I said to her, ‘ you know, I think this is something I need to do on my own, money-wise or not.’ It was kind of hard, to leave my mom here and really experience how much I do love it,” said Lewis.
After her Baylor visit, Lewis formed a connection with the soccer program and the trip enabled her to develop a deeper understanding of the family aspect the team exemplifies.
“I just knew that these people, whether I came here or not, they cared about me. They cared about me outside of soccer, as a person,” said Lewis.
Jobson also believes her visit to Baylor really helped sell her on the team, helped her build connections with the players, and helped her find the right match for her.
“She has got a great personality,” said Jobson. “She probably comes with a little bit different background than a lot of the girls on the team, but she has a great personality and through the recruiting process, they get to come in and meet the girls and get an opportunity to see what the culture is like, and I think that’s something that sold her. Because, she did fit in really well with the personalities on the team and felt comfortable with the environment. “
Once she committed, Lewis began to form connections of her own with her teammates, coaches and the program. However, opening up and solidifying her new connections proved a little more difficult.
“The most difficult part is getting to open up to people again,” said Lewis. “I came here as a freshman and it was challenging to open myself up and get to know people and let people get to know me. I’m really not like a feelings type of person, and I don’t like showing any emotion.”
Lewis’s teammates seem to have a different perspective.
“She is always cracking jokes and making everybody else laugh. One thing I love about her is how outgoing she is. She was comfortable with being herself and that allowed her to come in and really mesh well with everyone because she wasn’t to herself and not confident,” said senior Katie Daigle.
Furthermore, roommate, fellow freshman and friend, Delanie Davis, believes Lewis plays in a way that inspires others.
“I remember when I first saw her play she reminded me so much of my sister, which is a compliment. My sister is one of my favorite people to watch on the field because she is so hard working and Tots is the same way. She is so hard working, she steps to every ball with everything she has and she never gives up even when she’s hurting or not feeling up to it; she never gives up, and I think that’s pretty inspiring,” said Davis.
After spending her 18th birthday with the team and a number of successes throughout the beginning of the season, Lewis admits her relationships with teammates have grown over the months.
“A few days ago I was feeling really homesick so I called one of the girls and was just like I need a friend. So, that was a really big step for me; being able to open up,” said Lewis.
Furthermore, Lewis recognizes her on-the-field outlook has changed during her time at Baylor.
“At first it was hard for me to get names down and figure out where can I contribute even though I am a freshman,” said Lewis. “I kind of had to put that out of my head and think, ‘okay, you’re here with these girls, you have to be on the same page, you’re here to get a job done and fight with them and fight for them and you’d do anything on the field.’ ”