The fresh faces of WSU Athletics

The Weber State women’s softball team celebrates after a home run during a game that took place at WSU on April 27, 2022.

Balancing academic and athletic responsibilities can be demanding on freshman athletes. Players constantly have to juggle between their school and sports commitments, something that’s often tough on freshmen who are still adjusting to the college lifestyle.

Part of that juggling includes early-morning practices, afternoon games and traveling. Adding to the mix is pressure from teammates, coaches, professors and fans.

“The biggest change from high school soccer to college is the time management — going from high school, where it’s not that challenging, to college, where you are working for something, such as getting your degree and managing being a student athlete,” Grace Kirby, a Weber State University’s women’s soccer forward, said.

Playing right wing, Kirby is currently a freshman. In her first year of college soccer, Kirby was able to play 827 minutes during the 2022 fall season. In that time, Kirby scored 11 shots on goal off 32 attempts, recording a season high of five shots against the University of Colorado.

“When I look back on my freshman year, it was challenging, but it allowed for opportunities for growth and positive change,” Kirby said. “It’s taught me about having a positive mindset, consistency and knowing that hard work is key.”

The women’s soccer team has a total of nine freshmen, seven sophomores, nine juniors and two seniors. Heading into next season, Weber State has a high volume of upperclassmen, providing a solid structure for player development.

“The upperclassmen have been so helpful,” Kirby said. “When I first got to Weber State, I immediately felt welcome and a part of a family. Whenever I had concerns or needed help, I felt comfortable to go to the upperclassmen.”

Led by captains like goalkeeper Mekell Moss and midfielder Yira Yoggerst, Weber State was able to finish the fall season with a 6–12 overall record and a 4–4 record in Big Sky conference play.

Heading into fall semester, the women’s soccer team has been preparing with preseason games this spring and tournaments in the summer.

“Some things that I’ve learned throughout preseason is practice how you want to play,” Kirby said. “There’s no reason to not give your best effort no matter what you’re doing.”

Sarah Ruhl, freshman infielder for the softball team, has also learned a lot about developing her own game during her time with the Wildcats. Following in her older sister Emily’s footsteps, Sarah joined the team during the offseason.

“Growing up, we usually played softball together on the same teams,” Sarah Ruhl said about her sister. “Her being at [Weber State] really made my transition easier.”

Though the transition from high school softball to college has been strenuous, Sarah Ruhl said her experience on the Wildcat softball team has greatly improved her game, as well as her passion for the sport.

“Trusting myself and trusting my teammates has been a big [take away from preseason],” Sarah Ruhl said. “Sometimes I get on the field and I’ll start to doubt my talents, but once I know that my teammates have my back and they believe in me, then I start to believe in myself.”

Weber State is coming off a successful previous season and has Big Sky softball just around the corner. Though the stress can be a lot for freshmen on the team, Sarah Ruhl said she’s had her teammates to back her up and support her through her first season.

“Being around all those upperclassmen and them helping me out has really helped,” Sarah Ruhl said. “You have someone who has been playing here multiple years, giving you insight into what they think and what they know how to do. Just learning from them has made it really fun because you can just see the skills in them and they’re transferring them to you and sharing the knowledge with you, which is really cool. It’s helped me become a better athlete and a better player for myself.”

Sarah Ruhl said she not only has the support of her teammates but also the support of Weber State. The university has helped to create an environment to help student athletes, like her, thrive both academically and athletically.

“Coming into Weber, I was nervous because I was like, ‘What if I don’t do well academically and keep those grades up for my scholarship?’” Sarah Ruhl said. “It’s been a lot easier than I would have thought just because of how much support I have with tutoring or teammates helping me out.”

Though being a freshman college athlete brings its challenges like homesickness, intense practices and tougher opponents; Sarah Ruhl has found the transition to life as a college athlete as a good experience.

“It’s gonna get stressful at times,” Sarah Ruhl said. “But if you take the fun times and remember the memorable times with your team as much as you can, it makes the process a lot easier and you’re gonna get negative talk from your coach occasionally, but as long as you take the positive parts from it and leave out the negatives and it will make it a lot easier.”


Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a wording issue and to reflect that Kirby scored 11 shots on goal off 32 attempts.