Seville, soccer and service. No, these are not answers on celebrity jeopardy. They are all interests of Sara Ruiz ’02, captain of the Yale women’s soccer team.
Even though she spent last semester abroad and the beginning of this season nursing an injury, Ruiz is an attentive leader and an accomplished soccer player.
“She has a great work ethic, and she is very concerned about every member of the team,” head coach Rudy Meredith said.
Last year, Ruiz followed up two successful seasons with the Bulldogs by scoring 13 points and earning an honorable mention nod to the All-Ivy team. And this past spring, the Branford senior got the once in a lifetime opportunity of spending a semester abroad in Seville, Spain.
As part of the highly competitive Sweetbriar Junior Year in Seville program, Ruiz was one of only 40 students afforded a chance to study at the prestigious Universidad de Seville.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Ruiz said. “You learn and grow a lot from something like this, and when you come back, you really appreciate what you’ve had.”
At the university, Ruiz took classes in political science, literature and theater, all of which were taught in Spanish by local professors.
But Ruiz was not quick to forget her other passions. Three times a week, Ruiz played soccer with local students at the Parque de los Principes.
It is unusual for women to play soccer in Spain. When Ruiz first began playing at the park, the other players, who were predominantly men, were hesitant to pass her the ball. But Ruiz quickly gained their respect and admiration.
This semester, Ruiz is back on the soccer field for the Bulldogs and she has only one thing on her mind — the Ivy League championship.
Having played soccer since age six, the Davis, Calif., native is no stranger to success. During her time at St. Francis High School, Ruiz was a first-team all-league honoree, league offensive MVP and team MVP.
During her inaugural season with the Bulldogs, Ruiz led the team with five assists. By her sophomore year, Ruiz had started all 18 games and was fifth on the team in overall scoring. Last year, Ruiz was third on the team in scoring en route to an All-Ivy nod.
“She is a great one-on-one player,” Meredith said. “She is very deceptive, often confusing her defenders because she has the ability to change direction so quickly.”
In the first couple of weeks back with the Bulldogs, Ruiz battled through a few small injuries, including a hurt quadriceps and a stress fracture on her left ankle. But she has since then recovered, scoring three points in the Bulldogs’ first four games.
Ruiz is both pleased with the team’s performance so far and optimistic about the Elis’ prospects for the rest of the season.
“We have a lot of freshmen on our team, but I feel like we are really coming together,” she said. “We have a really good chance of beating some of the schools that troubled us in the past couple of years.”
Although the team is 3-1, Ruiz is careful to add that she would like to see more consistency in the team, alluding to the heartbreaking overtime loss to Cornell this past weekend.
“Our team can’t play to the level of the other team,” she said. “We’ve got to go into every game playing our best — as if every game was against Notre Dame. It doesn’t matter who your opponent is. You have to beat them.”
Although her main passion is on the field, Ruiz nevertheless understands the importance of also serving the community. In high school, Ruiz spent two summers in Bosnia and Croatia volunteering at a summer camp for children caught in the civil war there.
After arriving at Yale, Ruiz continued her commitment to community service by tutoring New Haven public school students during her freshman year and running free soccer clinics for local children during the spring.
As for her plan for the future, the political science major remains undecided. She is entertaining the possibility of participating in the Teach for America program.
More immediately, however, she is concerned with focusing herself and her teammates on this weekend’s game against arch-rival Harvard.
“I’m really confident going into [the game],” she said. “We are definitely capable of beating them. Mentally we have to come together and understand that we are playing Harvard.”