By Daniel Wallace
Next year’s Baylor soccer team will face many tough challenges due to the departure of seven seniors set to graduate in either the spring or winter of 2012. One of the biggest obstacles the team will face is replacing the anchor of what has proven to be a solid defense in the Big 12.
Senior defender Staz Salinas has been the chief of the Baylor defense for the past season and is scheduled to graduate in May.
Head coach Marci Jobson described her as the “general” of the defense and said she has admired her toughness and hard-nosed mentality in the way she plays the game. Jobson said that because of her leadership and maturity in her position, others follow her.
“Staz is a kid that a lot of people just respect because of the way she walks the walk and the way she plays,” Jobson said.
She plays physically and aggressively. Salinas said she credits that style of play to growing up with her two brothers — one older, one younger. Through middle school, Salinas ran track and played volleyball and soccer.
When high school began, she had to choose which sport to play — she chose the most physical of the three. Soccer was the obvious choice for the well-rounded athlete.
Salinas was recruited by former head coach George Van Linder and verbally committed to Baylor in the fall of 2007. The Austin native has experienced lifestyle changes since coming to Baylor and said she has become much “deeper.”
Salinas said one of her favorite moments at Baylor was during her sophomore year when she was baptized and her teammates were there to celebrate her profession of faith. Salinas described her spiritual journey as one of ups and downs but credited her teammates as her main support system. She said she has experienced friendships with her teammates that go beyond soccer.
“It’s just a bond no one will ever be able to take away,” she said. “All of us are mostly built on God and we know that at the end of the day, we are all going to be there for each other and have each other’s back. Then we will be there for support whenever we are having problems outside, like with God or anything like that. We have that foundation that we are all built upon.”
The defensive leader has learned not to take the game she loves for granted and plays soccer for more than the thrill of it.
“I’ve learned just every time I get out there, it’s a privilege and another opportunity to show him [God] off and give him the glory at the end of the day and play for an audience of one,” she said.
Fellow senior defender Hannah Dismuke said sometimes Salinas can have a tough shell around her, but that she is actually soft on the inside. She said Salinas does not always necessarily lead with words, but always leads by example. Dismuke also said Salinas brings consistency in every situation, no matter where she is.
“On the field and off the field, she is the same person,” Dismuke said. “You are always going to get the truth, you are always going to get someone who cares one hundred percent.”
Not only will the Bears miss Salinas’ extraordinary ability in the air on headers and defensive skills, but they will miss a leader who plays with passion and toughness, because of who she is playing for.
Salinas plans to enlist in the Air Force after graduating in May.