Akanyirige shows versatility on the field, in the classroom

Senior defender Precious Akanyirige fights off a West Virginia defender in a Sept. 22 match against the Mountaineers. Akanyirige's versatility has allowed her to play every position at Baylor except goalkeeper. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Collin Bryant | Sports Writer

Senior defender Precious Akanyirige is finishing up her season with Baylor soccer after playing almost every position on the field.

Akanyirige is a Pre-Med biology major with aspirations to go to medical school after she graduates. The senior has been playing soccer since she was seven years old. While Akanyirige determined that soccer was the sport for her at an early age, she is also determined to pursue biology.

Akanyirige said balancing being a biology student and being an athlete is difficult, but she’s determined to balance them out in order to achieve her goals.

“It is a challenge. A lot of studying. It’s a huge time commitment with soccer and academics, but I have a goal in mind and I’m going to do what I have to do to get to my goal,” Akanyirige said. “So if I have to sacrifice some sleep or some hanging out with friends along the way, I have to do it.”

Akanyirige said she decided to stick with the sport early on in her career, so she joined the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), a league that promoted her recruitment.

“I just feel like soccer is one of those sports where most parents throw their kids in it. You either stick with it or play it for a few years and I happened to stick with it,” Akanyirige said. “As I got older my club joined the ECNL. It was a league created to recruit players.”

Akanyirige participated in showcases and played in more tournaments later in high school with the idea of increasing her recruitment chances. She didn’t originally know about Baylor, but was guided by a high school mentor to reach out to the program. Baylor ultimately liked what they saw in her and recruited the California native.

She played a defensive position almost her entire life, but has shifted around several times since her arrival at Baylor, because of her versatility.

Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said it was easy to explain what Akanyirige had accomplished in playing just about every position while she’s been here at Baylor, further proving her versatility.

“It’s probably easier to tell you what Precious hasn’t done for our team. She has not played goal keeper. Really everything included in that, she’s an incredible leader, she’s a captain,” Jobson said. “She really plays every role. She plays the mom to some girls, she’s the motivator to some girls, she’s the disciplinarian to some girls, the girl has 1,000 hats for this team.”

She started her Baylor career as center forward, got moved to defensive midfielder and back to center defender this year, where she said she is most comfortable.

Akanyirige said the transitions were very challenging, but through support from her coach and dedication she made the adjustments.

“It was definitely a little rough. I had never really played in the offense at all and I had played defense since I was like 10. I’m just super lucky to have the opportunity to play on this team and I was going to do whatever I could to contribute,” Akanyirige said. “I mean just being in that starting 11 is such a privilege that I wasn’t going to complain because I wasn’t in the ideal position and it took a lot of adjustment and a lot of coaching and support from my teammates.”

After four years, Akanyirige feels the program has helped her grow not only as a player, but a person as well. She said being on the team has brought her out of her shell a lot more than she thought she could have.

Akanyirige said she feels like an improved leader after being surrounded by a great staff.

“This team has just pushed me to lead more and to speak up more,” Akanyirige said. “The people on Baylor soccer the staff, the players, just people associated with Baylor athletics are just great people. They care about you as an athlete as well as a person.”

Jobson said that Akanyirige will be missed in more ways than one after she graduates.

“She’s a kid that when she leaves her we are going to miss her, not just her as a soccer player, but as a person and a leader,” Jobson said.

Akanyirige looks to help lead the Lady Bears to a victory against Texas Tech at 7 p.m. today at Betty Lou Mays Field.

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