Sophomore defender Gabby Lopez, a native of Bridgetown, Barbados, recently completed her first season with women’s soccer, but still needs time to transition to American soccer.
Before moving to the U.S., Lopez played as a member of the Barbados Football Association Women’s League U20 team and was also captain of a Barbados U20 National Team that competed in World Cup qualifying. Lopez moved to the U.S. for athletic and academic pursuits.
“[Playing on the national team] has been a very enlightening and great experience,” Lopez said. “Our teams have done quite well so far, considering the short time we have been playing.”
Citing her reasons for transferring largely due to family matters, the sophomore now lives closer to her older sister, who attends Delaware State on a tennis scholarship.
“Having a sister play a sport in college was my motivation,” Lopez said. “In addition, my parents have encouraged me to go for soccer and school, to experience a new environment on and off the field.”
After transferring from New Mexico State, where she redshirted last year, Lopez played in 14 games and made four starts for the Owls (5-12-1) this past season. Lopez scored her first collegiate goal in a 7-1 loss to St. Joseph’s on Oct. 14.
“It’s exciting to add transfers to our roster,” coach Matt Gwilliam said. “These players established themselves as division I caliber players. We are delighted to have them here knowing that they possess the quality and leadership skills this program needs to continue to develop.”
Lopez visited the U.S. almost every summer in the past and said she finds women’s soccer to be more competitive in America.
“The level of play is similar, except the fact that there isn’t much competition so [my club team] has won four of five years,” Lopez said. “You often come across the same players in every tournament because the island is so small and players are limited.”
Lopez said that she also noticed a difference in the way athletes play.
“I think the soccer in America is a little more intense, because the girls here are more competitive and aggressive than they are at home in Barbados,” Lopez said. “I have definitely had to change my style of play and be more aggressive, and also play faster as the speed of play in soccer here is much faster than at home.”
Throughout her years playing soccer in Barbados, Lopez said she switched positions consistently, so moving to the U.S. and getting placed at different positions didn’t faze her. The coaching also has been a smooth transition, as she is used to intense training and technique.
“My boyfriend [in Barbados] is my coach and is very hard on me and intense, so it has definitely worked to my advantage,” Lopez said. “The coaching style is also fairly similar. I have been blessed to have very good coaches throughout my career here and in Barbados.”
With the 2011 season finished, Lopez said she wants to help improve the Owls’ 2-6-1 Atlantic Ten Conference record next season.
“I haven’t achieved quite what I wanted here at Temple yet,” Lopez said. “It would be great to make the A10 tournament next year.”
Liz Sim can be reached at email@example.com.