As senior captain Bri Rodriguez
continues her final season with the Mountaineers, she will also lead her team into new territory as participants in the Big 12 Conference. The excitement and expectations are high for WVU women’s soccer, and Rodriguez discussed what it would mean to bring home a conference title.
“We could be the first West Virginia team to win a Big 12 title,” said Rodriguez, a member of WVU’s 2010 and 2011 Big East championship teams. “Also, it would be awesome to finish college and know that you won two (championships) with different conferences during your time here. Not many people would be able to say that anywhere.”
The Mountaineers have been slow out of the gate this season, battling inexperience and injuries to post an early record of 2-3-1. The biggest highlight to date, knocking off the defending national champion Stanford Cardinal on Aug. 26.
“Anytime you beat the No. 1 team in the country, it’s a huge win,” explained the 5-foot-4 midfielder. “Hopefully it can serve as a big turning point for our season.”
Rodriguez has played a key role in the success of the program during her four years at West Virginia. Throughout her time in Morgantown, there have been two permanent fixtures in the stands at matches, her parents Jim and Mary Rodriguez. Traveling over 550 miles from their home in Aurora, Ill., and to even further distances for road contests, the Rodriguez family still manages to consistently attend Bri’s matches.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve only missed two games out of my entire college career,” offered Rodriguez. “It’s weird if they’re not in the stands, but it’s definitely a comfort knowing that they’re always there.”
Bri is the youngest of five children, all of whom were involved in athletics, and her parents were even standout athletes themselves. Her father played football and baseball at Buffalo, while her mother played basketball, field hockey and softball at Buffalo State.
While in high school, Bri was heavily recruited by colleges and universities before finally selecting West Virginia. Her parents managed to share their insight and personal experiences regarding the recruiting process.
“They weren’t hounded like athletes are today,” said the sport management major. “Recruiters are out there in your sophomore year of high school, and there’s more pressure to make a decision early. They helped me out a lot with the recruiting process, making sure it was truly the place I wanted to go.”
After enrolling at West Virginia, her parents continued to offer advice and words of wisdom about being a student-athlete and balancing the demands playing college athletics.
“I’ve had talks with my dad about balancing athletics and academics. They know of the great time commitment that goes into being a student-athlete,” said Rodriguez. “When we’re not having a great season, they’ve told me it will get better, because they’ve been there before.”
From a young age, Rodriguez was involved in multiple sports, as were her siblings and parents, before excelling with the ball at her feet.
“I played just about every sport when I was younger,” recalled Rodriguez. “Everyone was always playing sports. They put me in every sport I wanted to be in.
“Basketball and soccer were the two big sports for me. As I got older, I decided my future would be in soccer, and they supported that.”
Rodriguez has found continued support and advice from her parents as her career winds down. But as always with a sports family, competition can arise about who is the most athletic one.
“I never really got to see my mom in her prime,” smiled Rodriguez. “She had five kids to deal with, so her time was taken away quickly. So, I’d have to go with my dad. He’s always out there with us – coaching and always playing. I would say him, and hopefully my mom doesn’t read this.”
One thing is certain, Rodriguez has the support of her family behind her in the Mountaineers’ quest for a Big 12 crown.