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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Dual threat

Senior+defender+Jimena+Lopez+leads+the+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+soccer+team+as+well+as+the+Mexico+women%26%238217%3Bs+national+team.
Photo by Photo by Abbey Santoro

Senior defender Jimena Lopez leads the Texas A&M soccer team as well as the Mexico women’s national team.

At Texas A&M, the term “house divided” typically pits the 12th Man against Longhorns fans.
But for Jimena Lopez, the phrase has a much deeper meaning.
As A&M’s dual threat soccer star, Lopez will suit up in the maroon and white for one last season this fall. The senior defender from Mexico City has reaped great success not only as an Aggie, but as a member of Mexico’s national women’s team as well.
Lopez is a veteran member of Mexico’s national team at the U17, U20 and senior levels. She was a World Cup participant in 2016 and 2018, when she won the FIFA U20 Championship against the United States. She then went on to participate in the Pan American Games with Mexico in 2019.
Lopez said it is an honor to play for her home country at the international level.
“It’s awesome just to represent my country,” Lopez said. “It’s awesome to do what I love and serve my country in that way.”
The psychology senior has been recognized for her stellar performances in the classroom and on the soccer field. Lopez has earned Freshman of the Week and 2019 Midfielder of the Year honors from the SEC and Midfielder of the Year during the team’s annual banquet, as well as multiple SEC academic honor roll awards. She has also recorded six game-winning goals as an Aggie.
“She is a dream to have on our team. Jimena is very professional about her approach to the game and competition, but also a very caring and compassionate teammate,” A&M head coach G Guerrieri said. “As our team captain, she is great at setting and living up to high standards on the field, in the locker room, in the classroom and in the community.”
Though she admits balancing her time as a student-athlete and playing for Mexico is an ongoing challenge, Lopez said she has grown accustomed to the high expectations, strict schedule and requirements of both her collegiate and international teams.
Lopez said the dual commitments require her to be diligent in communicating with her coaches, teammates and professors as she spends a considerable amount of time traveling with Mexico’s team throughout the school year and has to hold herself accountable for her schoolwork while on the road.
“As an international student, I’m only allowed to take one online class a semester,” Lopez said. “I’m out of town for a lot of weeks during the semester so sometimes school gets overwhelming.”
While he said Lopez’s dedication to her athletics and academics is impressive, Mexico women’s national team head coach Christopher Cuellar said the university also deserves some credit for her success.
“Since Jimena arrived at Texas A&M, she has invested a lot of time in her academics in order to be able to attend camps and events here in Mexico,” Cuellar said. “It’s a testament to her level of dedication, and I would also have to say thank you to the support system she has at the university. It really wouldn’t be possible if she didn’t have the tools around her that she does.”
Both levels of play have led to growth in different aspects of her performance.
Lopez said playing collegiate soccer has helped improve her physicality, while international competition has made her a smarter player and taught her to use her strengths and weaknesses to her advantage.
“It’s very, very different. International games are definitely at a higher level,” Lopez said. “I struggled playing my first international games, but I have adjusted.”
Collegiate soccer is more physical but uses less technique, Lopez said, while international soccer is more about strategy. Playing for Mexico has also taught her how to see the gaps and easily recognize her opponents’ weaknesses. 
Cuellar said Lopez’s competitive nature played a key role in her development as an athlete.
“No doubt Jimena is one of the most competitive people I know,” Cuellar said. “Over the last year and a half, she has played against some of the best players in the world and has never backed down from a challenge or made an excuse.”
Because of Lopez, Guerrieri said he now considers himself a Mexico women’s national team supporter, and he believes his responsibilities as her coach extend far beyond the field.
“We know that she earns every honor and opportunity she’s had. We absolutely love her and want her to win and succeed at the international level,” Guerrieri said. “I think the most important thing for me to provide is my unwavering support for her to chase her dreams. I’m proud of the way my coaches and support staff aid her, teach her and help her to reach her goals.”
In her final season as an Aggie, Lopez said she is looking forward to reuniting with her team and receiving her Aggie Ring in September. 
Lopez has high hopes and expectations for the team as well. 
“It’s always a goal to win the NCAA title and qualify for the NCAA tournament,” Lopez said. 
In addition to leading her teams on the field, Lopez said she aspires to influence the lives of others. Those around her can attest to her ability to do so.
“Jimena has proven to be an impact player in both college and international competition. I have no doubt she will be a successful professional player,” Cuellar said.
A&M junior defender Macie Kolb said Lopez is a natural born leader and a true competitor. Kolb said Lopez is one of her role models, both on and off the field, and said she has developed as a player with the help of Lopez’s guidance. 
“She’s the type of teammate that will check up on you and push you to play your best,” Kolb said. “She wants what is best for the team and she wants to win. She’ll be the last one on the field after practice and the first one to pick you up if you’re down.”
Guerrieri said he can’t think of anyone who puts more time and focus into their craft than Lopez does.
“That’s a valuable lesson for younger players to learn from a peer,” Guerrieri said.
Lopez doesn’t only influence the younger players, though. Guerrieri said Lopez’s love for soccer has been contagious and her attitude toward the game has changed the nature of A&M’s team.
“I definitely think that impact will last long after she leaves. I know for me, she’s impacted me by exemplifying perseverance, determination and true grit,” Guerrieri said.
Lopez said she’s looking forward to more than just completing her degree and playing soccer this fall.
“The people here have enriched my college experience and I will miss them,” Lopez said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to receive an education while playing for A&M.”

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