LUBBOCK Hard work and determination made Haley Fowler an impact player for the Texas Tech women’s soccer team in the first place.
Now the 2009 Permian High School graduate hopes the same values can help her find some regular minutes the rest of this season for the Red Raiders.
If not, Fowler says she’ll do everything she can to help Texas Tech (10-3 overall, 2-1 Big 12) in the effort for its historic first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
A starter in every Big 12 game during her freshman and sophomore seasons (2009 and 2010), Fowler had extensive surgery for a torn PCL in her right knee in Oct. 2011 after appearing in five games — including three starts — last season.
“I tried to play with it torn and finally decided it needed surgery,” Fowler said. “I was getting cortisone shots trying to deal with the pain and decided it was too much. For this kind of injury normally it’s a year recovery but I worked as hard as I could in rehab and came back in nine months so I could have one more attempt for this season.”
Though technically a redshirt junior, Fowler is on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in mechanical engineering and said it’s unlikely she will play another season.
Fowler’s father, Mike, said Haley had a grade point average of 3.87 through her junior year and plans to pursue a master’s in biomedical engineering. Haley earned the Red Raider Congeniality award last spring at Texas Tech’s 2011-12 sports banquet for her overall contributions, including service as president of Tech’s student-athlete association.
“Her plate’s loaded,” Mike said. “But she knows how to balance it all and just loves life to the fullest.”
Haley Fowler would love adding more soccer to her balancing act the next couple of months.
Fowler has appeared in three of the team’s games this season as a midfielder, most recently Sept. 23 in a 5-0 home victory againstNew MexicoState.
“When I started two-a-days definitely I think I probably wasn’t ready to be completely back on the field,” Fowler said. “But each week of practice I feel like I’ve grown stronger. To come from being injured and not even running until May to being out there full contact in August, I feel like I’ve made huge leaps. If the team needs me, I’m going to be ready.”
As a freshman, Fowler made rapid progress during Tech’s nonconference schedule to earn a starting defensive spot at outside back.
The next season, Fowler mostly played in the midfielder because of injuries to teammates and logged 1,587 minutes on the field — second-most on the team. Fowler’s knee injury occurred in the offseason and she tried to give it a go before her surgery.
Sixth-year Red Raiders head coach Tom Stone has found solid players to earn starting roles during the best start in program history. But he had Fowler warming up Sunday during the second half of a 2-1 victory againstIowaState.
“We almost put her in because her heading is so important and she had her best week of practice,” Stone said. “Fowler’s still working her way into it. We trust her, so when she’s ready we’ll put her out there. Fowler’s totally grasped the leadership role. She’s unbelievable in the locker room, she’s unbelievable on the bench, totally positive.”
Sophomore midfielder Paige Strahan, a teammate of Fowler’s for two seasons at Permian, is Texas Tech’s second-leading scorer with seven goals.
Strahan said Fowler has helped make her path to Big 12 soccer much smoother.
“Haley is my lifesaver, my big sister, my everything,” Strahan said. “I just can’t even explain how much she does. She’s so positive and she’s so encouraging. She juggles so much, and it’s like how does she have the time to sit down and still encourage others? I don’t know. She’s an awesome person.”
Texas Tech has six regular-season games remaining, starting at7 p.m.Friday against Baylor in Lubbock, and then the Big 12 Tournament from Oct. 31-Nov. 4 in San Antonio.
During Fowler’s time with the program, the Red Raiders have turned into a program competitive within the Big 12. Whether she’s on the field or not, Fowler definitely hopes a strong finish can deliver the Red Raiders into their first NCAA field.
“I think the program has just continued to get better every year,” Fowler said. “I was part of the foundation that was laid four years ago. I feel like with the freshmen, I’m definitely that person at practice that pushes a little bit harder to make sure they’re ready for the games. I feel like if that’s going to be my lasting legacy, I’m OK with that.
“I want to be playing, but if the person I need to be for this team is just the person on the bench cheering, then that’s who I’ll be.”