Despite a winless weekend in Oklahoma and a difficult non-conference schedule, the Wildcats head into the Southland Conference opener stacked with young talent. Much of that young talent has come from freshman Christina Arteaga.
Head soccer coach Casey Wilson said his freshman midfielder has helped create numerous chances for the team early on.
“Christina is a very composed player; she handles the ball really well,” Wilson said. “She doesn’t panic and that creates a lot of opportunities for us.”
The transition to college can be hard for some, but for Arteaga it appears to be a breeze. She scored her first collegiate goal and had seven shots against UTSA in just her first game as a Wildcat. In her next game against UTEP, she added an assist that propelled ACU to a 2–1 victory. In the team’s most recent win against UT-Permian Basin, Arteaga placed four shots on goal.
“The way I play on the field is as a leader,” Arteaga said. “Yeah, I’m a freshmen, but that’s the way I play. Soccer has always been a part of my life.”
Like many, the knack for soccer came at a young age and Arteaga has shown it for years since. In fact, as a freshman in high school, a YouTube video was posted of her juggling a soccer ball for four minutes. But there are several others as well, some of which Arteaga said have provided inspiration.
“I don’t think the team knows anything about a juggling YouTube video of me considering I haven’t posted one of those in a long time,” Arteaga said. “But I have had younger soccer players tell me that I’m their inspiration.”
The tricks in the videos are something Arteaga said she spent time as a young player practicing.
“I started learning juggling tricks when I was young by constantly watching videos over it and trying to mimic the person as best I could till I could do it,” Arteaga said. “I wouldn’t get it right away, most moves took several days/weeks to finally accomplish,” Arteaga said.
And although many of those tricks haven’t been used during game play, her work ethic in learning them is obvious. Against SEC powerhouse Arkansas, the freshmen midfielder played the full 90 minutes and has played total of 571 minutes heading into Friday’s match against Houston Baptist. Arteaga has also played the entire match two other times this season.
“Sometimes getting into Div. 1 can bring a little bit of a panic mode,” said Wilson. “These are the type of players we’re looking to recruit and the high level of play has really helped our club.”
As the Wildcats start conference play on Friday, Wilson said his players are well equipped after finishing up the end of the out-of-conference slate against a nationally ranked opponent. Despite falling 3–0 to undefeated No. 18 Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Sunday, ACU had two players listed on the all conference preseason team by southlandconference.org and finished third in conference last year. As a freshman, Arteaga wasn’t eligible since the recognition only takes into consideration returning players. But if she continues to produce shots at her team-leading pace of 3.14 shots per game, she might be in the conversation in the future.