By: Brad Cox
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Texas A&M senior soccer player Laura Grace Robinson grew up kicking a soccer ball around chickens, sheep and cows.
On a 40-acre farm outside Houston, Robinson honed her skills playing with barnyard animals and the local boys.
"Our neighbors had a big cattle ranch, so we were always over there playing with their cows," she said. "I guess my brother and I would just kind-of chase them."
As a child, Robinson was placed on a boy's soccer team because of the limited amount of players in the area. The first soccer team she was a part of was called the Ninjas.
"I guess because I grew up doing it, I never really thought about playing with just girls," she said.
Her family moved to Houston when Robinson was 8 years old. She played with boy's teams until she was nine, when she tried out for a team made up of girls two years older than her.
"I heard that the coach was good," Robinson said. "I didn't really expect to make it and I got called and they said I made it. So I kind of had to make the decision to go to the girls. I think playing with boys when I was younger made me a little bit more physical and tough and probably helped in the long run."
Robinson played her freshman and sophomore seasons at Memorial High in Houston. She finished her high school career by playing for the Eclipse 85 club team. She was a two-time National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-America selection in 2003 and 2004.
She lettered in track and field at Memorial and played Amateur Athletic Union basketball, helping her team make it to the national championship tournament in 2000.
"I actually enjoy playing basketball as much as I do soccer," said Robinson, who often attends Aggies basketball games and watches her favorite player, senior guard Josh Carter. "If I had been a little bit taller, I probably might have played that."
On the soccer field, Robinson had a breakout season this fall. After playing in all 24 of the Aggies' games in 2007, 15 of which she started, she became a regular starter in her senior season. She led the team with seven goals and 22 shots on goal.
During the postseason, Robinson scored one goal in A&M's 3-1 second-round victory over Washington. Sunday, she scored a goal as the Aggies upset No. 2 seed Florida. That advanced third-seeded A&M to the NCAA Elite Eight and a match with top-seeded North Carolina Friday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The game will be a welcome rematch for Robinson, as the Aggies lost to the Tar Heels 3-2 earlier this year. It will be the fifth time the two teams have met in the past three seasons. A&M's one victory in 11 games with the Tar Heels came in double overtime in 2006. Later that season, the Aggies to UNC in an Elite Eight match in Chapel Hill, N.C.
For Robinson and her teammates, it's another chance to break through and become the first Big 12 women's soccer team to reach the NCAA Women’s College Cup.
"We've played them several times in the past few years," Robinson said. "It's always fun to play a good team and to have the chance to play them again after losing a close game earlier this season. It would be fun to get to see them again."