Ariana Owens stepped onto TCU’s campus months before some of her other first-year teammates after she decided to graduate from high school early and join Coach Eric Bell’s squad in January to improve her game before the start of the regular season.
Owens, a first-year defender from Austin, Texas said the idea came from her parents who recommended that it was in her best interest to come early to college.
“After talking with them and the coaches about it, I saw all of the pros for doing it,” Owens said. “Coming early helped me out a lot so that I could prepare for the regular season and just to come in and prepare ahead of time really helped me a lot.”
Owens praised the coaching staff for preparing her for the season but also had high praise for TCU’s community-based atmosphere.
“TCU stuck out to me the most because it felt most like a family,” Owens said. “Being that it’s a bit smaller than a lot of other schools in the state, you don’t get lost as both a person and a player.”
In order to graduate high school before the rest of her classmates, Owens took online courses through the University of Texas at Austin for six months, allowing her to graduate from high school in December and start at TCU less than a full month later.
“It was a very smooth transition,” Owens said. “I’m pretty outgoing and open-minded to the situation, and I’m not very far from home so I didn’t feel homesickness.”
Bell and the rest of the TCU soccer coaching staff began recruiting Owens in her early years of high school. The plan was never for her to play as much on defense as she has been playing recently, though.
“It’s very similar for all of the American kids,” Bell said. “You start to identify them in their freshman and sophomore years of high school. Listed at 5 feet 10 inches tall, she is a player that stands out just because of her stature, and with her abilities athletically and technically, she is a very good player. We went down the road with her relatively early, and we seem to be a good fit for her.”
Throughout the season so far, Owens has earned a large amount of playing time and Bell has depended on her consistent play on the backline.
“I knew coming early would help me develop as a player, which maybe would get me on the field more, but playing in a defense position was something that was new to me and something I didn’t expect,” Owens said. “Being put to play defense, which I’ve never played in my life, I was very nervous. Having spent a few months here already, I’ve learned to play quicker, see the field better and my soccer IQ has been getting better, too.”
Both Bell and Owens would agree that coming to Fort Worth a semester early has been beneficial to her improvements as a soccer player over the past few months.
“Being able to work with them since the summer has let us improve to a level where we can talk with one another and we know how each of us works on defense,” Owens said. “That’s been really helpful.”
Besides the work on the soccer field together, Owens said that the upperclassmen have had a major role in her transition to the social aspect of college life.
“Some of them are my closest friends,” Owens said. “I don’t think many people expect that. Coming in as a freshman, many people fear communicating with the upperclassmen, but ours have been really welcoming, super helpful on the field, always willing to teach us and hang out with us off the field, too.”
As the season unfolds, Bell is excited for what Owens can bring to this team.
“We aren’t looking for her to do anything special,” Bell said. “We just want her to be consistent with what we are asking her to do and do it at a high level. We look for her to get better at those things we ask her to do.”
Owens stands out from the rest of the other first-years because of her level of maturity, Bell said.
“Having been here an extra semester, she has a different level of comfort,” Bell said. “That’s huge going into the conference season. She’s probably much more comfortable than some of her classmates.”
Owens and the Frogs begin Big 12 play Friday evening when they host the Kansas Jayhawks at Garvey-Rosenthal Soccer Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.