Ballesteros, Baca selected to compete in Greece and Turkey
By: Julie Laugel/GCU Staff
Traveling Europe playing the sport you love with your best friend has all the ingredients for a perfect summer.
For Grand Canyon University Women’s Club Soccer players Julia Ballesteros and Lexi Baca, that recipe was reality when they were selected to join the SoCal Select club team to travel and compete internationally with other highly skilled players around the area from June 13 through June 29 before the trip was postponed due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
The SoCal Select is a competitive women’s soccer club comprised of current and former collegiate players wanting to continue competing at a high level. The club is one of few opportunities for adult women’s soccer players to compete at a non-professional level.
“When you compare men’s soccer to women’s soccer at the semiprofessional and lower professional levels, men have a lot more opportunities than women,” said GCU Women’s Club Soccer Head Coach Hannah Bolton. “Since professional soccer is so limited in the women’s game, it’s really cool to have this opportunity with the SoCal Select.”
Each summer, the club holds open tryouts to form a team to compete internationally. For this year’s trip, the team would’ve played in the Balkin Cup in Thessaloniki, Greece and traveled to Athens, Santorini, Rodos, and the islands of Poros for several additional matches, as well as spend four days on a private yacht sailing the southern coast of Turkey.
When information about the club was sent to Bolton, she reached out to the team. Ballesteros and Baca jumped at the chance.
“I was a great opportunity and just kind of fell in our lap – thanks to Hannah,” said Baca. “It was a great price to go to Greece and Turkey and experience all of that while getting to play soccer, having everything planned out, and especially getting to go with Julia.”
Baca and Ballesteros traveled to California in December for tryouts with approximately forty other athletes, and found out a few weeks later that they had both made the team.
“I was really excited to play with new people, and some of the girls (at the tryout) had gone already,” said Ballesteros. “It was cool to hear about their experiences and made me really excited to go.”
Although this year’s trip was postponed, both women have a spot reserved on the SoCal Select team for next year, and both plan to travel and compete in 2021.
Ballesteros and Baca are both incoming seniors at Grand Canyon University. Ballesteros is a center defender entering her fourth year with GCU Women’s Club Soccer, and Baca is a forward entering only her second year with the team after transferring last year from the NCAA Division 1 soccer program at the University of New Mexico.
“Out of anyone on the team, these two are the most passionate, so it made sense (for them to try out),” said Bolton. “Julia is the only player out of the years that I’ve been involved in the club program that stuck it out all four years. She is a leader on our team, and has been so dedicated for so long, which is a big thing and not common in club sports programs.
“Lexi came in as a transfer this year and brought a level of competitiveness and seriousness that we needed while still being a good teammate and being fun about it,” added Bolton. “It was cool to have someone come in who transferred from an NCAA program, raise that level and really show everyone else what college soccer is all about.”
Interested in GCU Women’s Club Soccer? Contact Head Coach Hannah Bolton for more information!