In her third season with the University of New Mexico soccer team, Los Alamos High School alum Alix Hailey is starting to see some meaningful time on the pitch.
“I think Alix has put herself in the position to be competing for minutes, which is what you want from any player,” said Lobos head coach Heather Dyche. “Candidly, I think that’s the standard. If you want more, you have to do more. If you want to be a bigger-impact player, you have to be able to have a bigger impact on things. Alix is certainly somebody who has invested in herself.”
Indeed, after a recent, grueling, two-hour training session, Hailey stayed with assistant coach Paul Maestas to work on her game.
“Sometimes, staying after practice and working on the things that I feel I need to improve on is really important because, sometimes during practice, you don’t get all the opportunities to fix the things you want, so staying after allows me to sharpen my skills,” she said. “I was working on heading. Some of my technique has been off. And so I just wanted to get the coaches’ opinion.”
“Alix, she’s composed and she’s a thoughtful player, very coachable and listens to what is expected of her,” Dyche said. “Alix is growing in the program, and she cares about it and she is invested.”
Hailey, who is studying applied mathematics, would still have three years of eligibility left after this season, but she’s not sure she wants to pursue a master’s degree.
A holding midfielder, she’s looking at striving to be the best player she can be, and ready to step in provide a break to starter and minutes-gobbler Alexa Kurton.
“I think working really hard and preparing in practice is really important,” Hailey said. “I think Alexa is a really good example of that and I try to learn as much as I can from her. I was asking her for advice (Wednesday). Whenever I try to watch her, I try to embody what she does. I don’t think I’m as much of a physical presence as she is, but I am working on that.”
Most of Hailey’s minutes come on Sunday when Kurtin has been through a tough game on the front end of the weekly doubleheaders. When Hailey steps into that position, she expected to help ease the defensive burden on the back line.
That’s what Dyche sees when she inserts Halley.
Hailey said, “Last spring, I went out with no regrets and tried to play the best I could. I was able to see the field and the first time I stepped on it, it was such an incredible feeling, under the lights on our home field. It was amazing. Now, as I’m able to impact the game even more, it’s really a great feeling.”
As a matter of fact, Hailey counts her first minutes as among her highlights at UNM.
“I just remember my whole team being so happy for me, and proud of me because I worked really hard,” she said. “Being able to step on the field for even a couple of minutes was a really big highlight and will always stand out in my mind. And then, this season, when I scored my first goal when we were in Las Vegas. Everyone came around and was so supportive.”
Hailey is one of those blue-collar players that Dyche loves to develop into key contributors.
“For any player, you want for them to come into the program and become a better player, and hopefully push themselves to a higher standard,” the coach said. “Alix is the epitome of that player. She came into her own as a senior in high school and everything she’s been given, she’s earned.
“I admire that in her. Her willingness not to be afraid of any challenge is something that makes her special.”