Sofia Jones’ soccer season didn’t end the way she hoped – her Santa Clara University women’s team was eliminated in the third round of the NCAA playoffs – but the Los Altos Hills native is optimistic about the Broncos’ chances of advancing further next fall.
“My main goal is for the team next year to win the national championship,” said Jones, a junior. “This year we made it to the top 16, but we lost to USC in that round (1-0), which was disappointing. Still, it’s hopeful because it shows that we’re getting closer to titles, so hopefully that will happen.”
A starting defender on a team that went 15-6-2 last season, Jones welcomes the challenge of playing the best teams in the nation.
“Every game is fun to win, but especially the games where it’s the big stage, the high stakes – that’s super important,” the St. Francis High graduate said. “I really like playing teams that are ranked higher than we are because it’s such a great opportunity and it’s so fun to go in as the underdog and come out winning. You prepare so much, you’re super determined, you’re very disciplined, and coming out with a win after having such intense preparation is such a great feeling.”
One of the ways Jones maintains her focus on the field is through a phrase she coined.
“Something that I’ve learned over the years is there’s actually a lot of mistakes in soccer, and there’s this phrase that I came up with called ‘Flush it,’” she said. “Basically, have short-term memory when you’re playing in a game. Have the ability to forget your mistakes and keep playing like nothing has happened, and that’s kind of the way I’ve been successful. I’m able to accept my mistakes but not dwell on them and just kind of grow from them.”
When things get particularly tough, Jones turns to her teammates for support; she said they keep her grounded.
“There are 30 girls on the roster, that’s a lot of players, and there are only 11 starting positions, so obviously there’s going to be times where you don’t get to start and it’s super disappointing,” she said. “What gets me through those times is the sort of family we’ve created on the team. Each of the girls is just like a sister to me; they’re just so caring and I know they’ll have my back no matter what, so even if I’m not playing, I’m part of such an amazing environment and such a great family that I’m not even fazed. I’m just grateful to be with girls like that all the time.”
Those teammates include three fellow Lancers: goalkeeper Courtney Ogren and midfielder DB Pridham, both seniors, and freshman midfielder Riley Burrill.
Jones’ route to Santa Clara differed from theirs and many other players on the team. Although her older sister Ali played for the Broncos (Class of 2016), Sofia had to get the coaches’ attention in high school. She reached out to them via several emails and phone calls in hopes they would come watch her play and offer her a spot on the team.
Her perseverance paid off.
“Being honest, I wasn’t heavily recruited at all; I was probably looking at two or three schools,” Jones said. “We have this core value at Santa Clara called ‘embrace the opportunity for growth and success,’ and that’s exactly what I did. I wasn’t sure how much playing time I would get, I wasn’t really sure about anything yet, but I worked really hard. I got through my freshman year and I continued to work hard and persevere, and fast forward three years and now I’m starting as a center back on the team – something I wouldn’t have expected.”
Off the field, Jones is studying information systems in SCU’s Leavey School of Business. The major is a blend of technology and business – two fields that interest the self-described “people person.”
Jones isn’t sure if she will pursue a pro soccer career after graduating, but she plans to play at some level.
“Even if I don’t play professionally, I know that I won’t stop soccer altogether,” she said. “I’ll still want to go out and play.”