By Emily Orthwein
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Vittoria Arnold, a sophomore goalkeeper for TCU's women's soccer team, had a later start finding her passion than most people. While Arnold has played soccer for 12 years, the native Texan's teammates all started much younger than she.
"Twelve years sounds like a long time," Arnold said. "But the girls around me started when they were at least 5 or 6 years old."
The talent she shows on the field today makes it seem as if she has been playing her whole life. In reality, Arnold tried just about every other sport before she found soccer.
"I am the only soccer player in my family," said Arnold. "I tried basketball, but apparently I was too physical because I fouled out in almost every game. I wasn't much of a runner and I was not built for dancing or ballet, so my parents found me soccer."
Arnold had always played in the midfield position growing up. It was not until a middle school game that her team's goalie was injured and Arnold stepped up to the plate. She has never looked back.
"Most people know they are a goalie when they first start playing, but it wasn't that way for me," said Arnold. "I was always a midfielder up until I was 13 years old and we made the switch, so ever since then it just stuck. It's where God wanted me."
When playing such a competitive team sport, the only way you learn to get better is through your mistakes, and Arnold has definitely paid her dues to get where she is today. Recently, Arnold got pulled out of the game at Oklahoma after she allowed a second goal in a 3-1 loss. This was a major wake up call to Arnold, who turned the experience into something positive.
Two games after Oklahoma, Arnold was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, which provided a springboard to her receiving the Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award at the Big 12 Championship. She was instrumental in the Horned Frogs reaching the championship game. It is safe to say her mistakes at Oklahoma had already paid off.
"I appreciated that moment because my coach cut to the chase and told me that there were things that I needed to do that I wasn't doing," said Arnold. "To see a coaching staff like TCU's, that is committed to treating every player the same is very valuable in the sport of soccer because not everyone in college does that."
The amazing fair-minded coaching staff is not the only thing that Arnold loves about the TCU soccer experience. Arnold spoke of the unique way each athlete plays their game, showing their own personal desire to win. This desire usually manifests through the physicality of the players.
"I love that you can see people's passions come out when they play," said Arnold. "It is definitely a passionate game and people sometimes criticize the girls' games for how physical and catty we are on the field. But at the end of the day we are just showing how much we really care and love the game."
In her specific position as goalkeeper, she has to always stay alert and strong. The position protects the very thing that everyone on the other team wants so badly -- a goal. So every play, every game, Arnold is serving as the last line of defense against winning and losing.
Back in 2010, when Arnold was still at Arizona State, she suffered a season-ending concussion after getting kicked in the face. The week prior, she had finally been moved to the starting position because of her hard and dedicated work in practice. This accident, which occurred in her first starting game, left her with bruising and swelling behind the eye.
"It was a bittersweet thing for me," said Arnold. "It definitely tested my character a little bit. So I just chose to do what I could, to come back from the concussion and come out in the spring to play full force, and then decided to come to TCU my sophomore year."
Injured or not, Arnold still has her own routine before every game. Like many other sporting events, soccer comes with some type of superstition or tradition.
"I drink half of a 5-hour energy," said Arnold. "I wear pre-wrap and put my hair up the same way. I also wear the same socks and a certain bracelet every game as well."
Speaking of traditions, having a female coach was a change for Arnold. Her goalkeeping coach, Kelsey Davis, has impacted her enough to be a type of role model for Arnold. Brianna Scurry, one of the best goalkeepers to ever be on the U.S. women's national soccer team, also made the list of people that Arnold tries to model herself after.
"I've never had a female coach before," said Arnold. "Kelsey is the most intelligent and wise person I've ever known as a coach. I model myself after her because she makes me want to be a better person and player. She understands and knows how to coach me and I respect that. I want to play well for her and Eric (Bell), the head coach, and Ryan (Higginbotham), the assistant coach, and most importantly the team."
As a sophomore, Arnold still has a lot ahead of her at TCU. With two years under her belt and two more to go, she has a lot more to accomplish with the team, as well as personal goals she would like to achieve. And she has plenty of time.
"Here at TCU, I would love to keep setting records," said Arnold. "I would love to lead the team to a championship, getting into the NCAA tournament and definitely winning the Big 12 tournament next year. With two more years of my being here at TCU, there is still a lot more we can accomplish as a team."
As far as her future after TCU, Arnold hopes to use her psychology degree and become a sports psychiatrist. Also, her desire to play professionally does not seem out of reach for a young athlete like Arnold.
"I wouldn't mind being a sports psychiatrist because I think it's interesting. I think it's fun seeing how the mind works, especially in a sports atmosphere. Athletes are wired way differently than the normal person. I wouldn't mind going overseas and playing professionally, either."
Keep watch on the TCU women's soccer team. Hearing what Arnold has to say about their future as a team and her future personally, it should be an exciting next few years on the TCU campus.