By Holly Kitten
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Each morning at 7:15, Texas Tech soccer coach Tom Stone arrives at the John Walker Soccer Complex. Practice doesn't start for another hour, but the bright field lights are already turned on, shining on a single player hard at work-- goalie Victoria Esson.
Despite the intense workout demands required in college soccer, Stone said Esson makes an early appearance every morning before practice.
"We've got some girls that train hard," Stone said, "but nobody's got the commitment that she has had."
Stone said Esson's background is what fuels the athlete's persistence to the sport.
Coming from Christchurch, New Zealand, Esson has experience playing on national teams.
Esson competed in both the FIFA U17 Women's World Cup in New Zealand and the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup in Chile in 2008. In 2010, she was also part of the final squad for the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup in Germany.
After her national exposure abroad, Esson transferred to Tech. Teammate and senior captain Casey McCall said she had heard about Esson, but was unaware of the talent she would bring to the team.
"It was a nice surprise," McCall said. "When she first came in, we were really excited she was as good as she was."
Esson has grabbed more than the attention of her teammates and coach, though. Within her first seven matches, the conference gave her four Big 12 Player of the Week awards - the most any player in Big 12 history has received in a single season.
Esson said she contributes the recognition to her team.
"I feel very honored and privileged obviously," Esson said, "but it's definitely a whole team honor. That's really important. Everyone feeds off each other's energy."
Much of that energy stems from the defense, McCall said. At the beginning of the season, the Red Raiders made it a goal to build a stronger defense. McCall said the improvement needed to be a team effort, not just from the back four and the goalie.
McCall said their goal was met with great success.
"I think we've really stepped it up a notch," the defender said. "I think our team is really coming together nicely and it's really exciting."
McCall said Esson is one of the key elements of their defense and that the New Zealand goalie gives her more confidence than she's ever felt on the field.
"I love having her back there," McCall said. "She communicates with us well that she has your back and that's a really good thing."
Being a goalie is not as easy as it looks, though, Esson said. The position involves a lot of pressure which can cause goalies to crack.
Stone said in the case of Esson, pressure only makes her stronger.
"Because she's been in such big games in her career," Stone said, "the faster the game goes, and the more exciting it is, the more calm she is. It's hard to replicate that."
Despite her calm nerves, Esson said she was a little uneasy when she first transferred to Tech, because she wasn't sure what the competition would be like. Figuring it would be tough, she decided to give it all she had and hope for the best.
"I was hoping it was going to be everything I planned it to be," Esson said, "and it's been more than that."
McCall said Esson, who has a great personality and an encouraging attitude, had no problem fitting in with the team.
"We were really lucky to get her," McCall said.
Good chemistry and strong defense are two components Esson said have helped create a great team this season, one the Red Raiders hope to take to the Big 12 Championship.
"This team has a huge amount of potential," Esson said. "I don't know what the team was like last year, but this year, everyone is really cohesive and such a tight-knit group. I think that relates to the success we've had."