By: Natalie Van Dyke/David Carter/GCU Staff
Ministry on and off the pitch.
Grand Canyon University Women’s and Men’s Club Soccer players Lexi Baca and Matt Pierce earned the September Student-Athletes of the Month Awards for how they lead – whether they’re donning soccer jerseys or their regular clothes. These days, you may find them at GCU’s Prescott Field for a few reasons. The obvious ones happen several times a week when they lead their respective teams into another practice or match. No matter when their game times are, though, count on them to be there Tuesday nights at 5:45 pm. Using soccer as their vehicle, Baca and Pierce build relationships with local high schoolers as part of GCU Local Outreach’s Soccer Ministry to spread the love of God and positively impact their lives.
Women’s Club Soccer: Lexi Baca
Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Soccer sophomore Lexi Baca is new to the program, having transferred after her freshman campaign as part of the University of New Mexico’s NCAA Division I program.
Coming out of a 1-8-2 season last year, Baca has helped GCU Purple get off to a 3-0-2 start this season. Baca scored two unassisted goals in her debut as a Lope, and has tacked on three more goals since to go along with four assists.
That only scratches the surface of the difference she’s made, though.
“She’s more than a goal scorer,” said Lopes’ Head Coach Hannah Bolton. “She’s a great defender, works hard, and her teammates all love her. She picks the ball off of a lot of defenders and gives us opportunities – which is unique.”
Off the field? Baca gets back on the field.
New to the Spiritual Life Department this year, Soccer Ministry gives high school students who can’t afford to play club sports a chance to still be part of an athletic community. GCU invites players from the community to come onto the GCU campus once a week where club soccer players like Baca and GCU students train the athletes and lead them in a devotional.
“It’s an opportunity to serve others and share the word of God,” said Baca. “We pray together and work to incorporate teamwork to allow these kids to be a part of a strong community”
Baca has also been a great academic addition to GCU. Working toward a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Baca has maintained a 3.8 GPA and is set to graduate a year early in 2021.
“It’s such a great fit for me,” says Baca on transferring to GCU. “GCU has so many opportunities to grow your faith. I didn’t have those opportunities last year, and I still get to play soccer at a competitive level with a great group of girls.”
Men’s Club Soccer: Matt Pierce
Matt Pierce on and off the field? A positive light, according to Lopes’ Head Coach Lance Thompson.
“Matt is a natural leader and has been an exceptional student-athlete,” said Thompson. “His involvement in the soccer community through campus ministry has been top-notch, and his commitment to healthy relationships on and off campus have been a great representation of himself and our program as a whole.”
Pierce has fully embraced the leadership concept in the midfielder’s first year as a captain.
“I feel like club soccer has helped me grow as a leader,” said Pierce. “I have had to really take initiative on training sessions, practices and just making sure everyone is warming up before the games, as well as sticking to the game plan during matches.”
Pierce’s vocal leadership has helped GCU Purple stay undefeated (5-0-1) through the first month of the season. The two assists and the goal he’s tallied himself haven’t hurt the team’s or his confidence, either, but when he ponders what has made the biggest difference for him in the past couple of months, he points to those late Tuesday afternoons.
“(The Soccer Ministry) has definitely allowed me to grow in my faith and my relationship with the Lord,” said Pierce. “Before, I would see soccer as something I would do for fun and get better at. Now, I see it as a vessel to share the gospel and build relationships.”