Continuity has been at the forefront of the early-season success for the Celina girls soccer team, which began its 2023 campaign with a 11-0 record during which they outscored opponents, 60-7.
The Lady Bobcats return 10 starters from their Class 4A state championship-winning lineup, and although the graduation of Star Local Media all-area MVP Taylor Zdrojewski a notable void, players like senior Lexi Tuite has taken the reins and kept Celina's high-powered offense humming.
Through 10 matches, Tuite has already scored 18 goals and assisted on seven others — well on the way to exceeding her junior-year totals of 29 goals and 20 assists as an all-state midfielder.
In this week's student-athlete profile, Tuite reflects on the Lady Bobcats' state championship win, what she learned playing alongside Zdrojewski and the rise of Celina soccer.
SLM: Congrats on the unbeaten start to the season. What has impressed you most about the way the team has begun this year?
LT: I think the thing that has impressed me the most about this team and our season so far has been how hard each person works every day and how hungry the whole team is to achieve greatness. No one person on the team is complacent.
I think the team realizes that every person has to work hard to reach our goals. I’ve also been very impressed with the team effort this year rather than individual efforts. This has been the most team-oriented season that I’ve seen at Celina within all four years.
SLM: There's a ton of experience returning from last year's team. Talk about the bond between this group and how you all have developed that chemistry together on varsity.
LT:I definitely believe some of that chemistry comes from the fact that almost all of our team consists of returning players, many of whom are starters, and we all know how to play with each other.
I also believe it originates from spending so much time together; we do so many things as a team, such as team retreats and hangouts, which have made many of us best friends.
SLM: You scored the winning PK in the shootout last season to capture the state championship. Reflect on that moment, how you felt lining up for that shot, and what it was like seeing that shot go in.
LT:If I am being honest, I was so nervous for that PK and all I was thinking about was “shoot it right” over and over because Madi (Vana) had told me to pick a side and stick with it, so I just kept repeating that to myself.
It's funny reminiscing about when I made the PK because when it went in all I remember was thinking “Thank God I made it.” I didn’t even really register that we had won the state title until I looked behind me and everyone was running towards me.
SLM: You've taken on a larger scoring role this season with Taylor now graduated. How have your responsibilities on the field changed from last season?
LT:I have always strived to score many goals every game, but now that I play in the middle I feel like I am able to be a lot more dynamic. In the absence of Taylor, I feel as though many players have taken on different roles and I feel like my role personally changed most by being one of the leaders on offense.
With that, our strong midfield (Madi Vana, Mia Norman, and Brielle Buchanan) have helped me tremendously with scoring by winning the ball and giving me great assists. I feel like all four of us have taken on the leadership responsibilities together since Taylor is gone and now that we are seniors.
SLM: On a similar note, what did you learn from Taylor playing alongside her the past two seasons?
LT:I loved playing with Taylor and learning from her because she was always a great leader. I obviously loved watching her play and picking up little things that she did to help make me a better player, however, I think the main thing I learned from her is how important a good attitude can be for the entire team.
This year, we had to overcome the gaps she left, but people have stepped up to fill them and we have become a really great team.
SLM: What has it meant to be part of helping develop Celina into a state powerhouse in soccer?
LT:I have loved seeing the team develop in the last four years. We have had so much talent come in over the years and returning players, including myself, have grown so much over the years.
It has meant so much to me to reflect on this program's journey and the memories that I created. These past few amazing seasons have just been the beginning of the legacy this program will make and I am so blessed to have been a part of this journey.
SLM: How long have you been playing soccer and what gravitated you to the sport?
LT:I have been playing soccer since I was 4 so about 13 years, and when I started out it was just one of the many sports my mom wanted me to try out. However, as I got older, my passion for soccer burned brighter and I constantly strived to improve myself in the sport.
A big step for me was when I entered high school because that was the time to decide whether it was important enough for me to spend the majority of my time on playing outside of school. Ultimately, I loved the sport too much to give it up and chose to take my game to the next level in college.
SLM: Belated congrats on your recent commitment to Northern Colorado. What was the recruiting process like and what went into your decision to commit to Northern Colorado?
LT:The recruiting process is so stressful and sometimes degrading if I’m being completely honest. However, I am so happy and excited where I ended up and cannot wait for my future in Northern Colorado.
I had such a great visit there: Everyone I met was so nice, the campus was beautiful, and it just felt like home. Obviously playing time was a factor as well, and I felt like playing at a smaller school but still a high level of play would allow me a better chance to get minutes earlier in my career.
SLM: Do you have any sort of game-day ritual or routine to get in the right frame of mind before a game?
LT: I have superstitions as everyone does, but a main part of my game-day routine is a lot of prayer. I always like to remember to play with a purpose, so I’ll leave you with one of my favorite verses that I write on my wrist tape before games—2 Corinthians 12:9, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
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