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Not many get the chance to play a Division I sport. Not many even get the chance to play college athletics. Senior forward Rachel Tejada was a gifted athlete growing up playing a wide array of sports. Last Friday, Tejada put her name in the record books becoming Illinois State Universitys top All-Time Goal Record holder.
Tejada, a native of Troy, Ill. has been playing sports for as long as she can remember. Soccer wasnt actually Tejadas first love. Tejada was raised playing softball, soccer and her first love, basketball.
I love basketball; it was always number one, Tejada said. But soccer took over my heart. My family all played college soccer; I just followed their footsteps. Soccer became a passion. It got me where I am today.
Growing up in a family full of athletes, Tejada has always had a bright future. A biological sciences major, Tejada was a four-year varsity starter at Triad High School, where she capped 133 goals. She scored 41 goals as a senior, leading Triad to a Class 2A state championship.
Coming into ISU, Tejada was a freshmen standout. She was the first ever ISU player to become an All-American, while also becoming the Missouri Valley Player of the year her first season with the team. She finished third in the nation in goals and fourth in points per game. ISU and head coach Drew Roff knew they had found a special talent in Tejada.
Weve always known how much of a special talent she really is, Roff said. As soon as she stepped foot on our field, we knew she was going to be great.
Tejada tied the all-time goal record last Sunday against South East Missouri State, a game winner in overtime for her 59th career goal. Everyone saw the next one coming, but it would not come easily.
A sunny 70-degree Friday afternoon, it was a perfect day for soccer against Western Michigan at Adelaide Street Field. Several opportunities came for both teams in the first half, but defense was the name of the game. Chances for both ISU and WMU came, but were stopped by stifling defenses.
We came out a little slow, Tejada said. There were a lot of chances, but we werent capitalizing. We turned it around at halftime.
Just nine minutes into the second half, Tejada seized her special moment. After passing to Dagny Olson who was dribbling down the right side of the field, Tejada cut towards the middle of the goal. Olson blasted a shot towards WMU goalkeeper, Kaitlyn Collin, who managed to block the shot back towards the middle of the penalty box. Tejada came cutting down the middle of the box for the rebound goal and made history.
Her 60th career goal, Tejada broke the all-time ISU and MVC Career goal record. Tejada surpassed previous record holders, Annie Wayland (59 goals) and Evansvilles Kayla Lambert (51 goals).
Tejadas goal was the lone score of the game as ISU defeated WMU 1-0.
We had to keep working, eventually we got one, Tejada said. We knew one was coming, we had to be more involved. It finally happened. I couldnt be more thankful for my teammates for getting me here.
It may just be another goal to Tejada, but this goal makes her the most successful forward to ever play at ISU and in the MVC.
Its just an honor. I wouldnt be here if it wasnt for my family, teammates and coaches, Tejada said. My dad has been my coach since I was a baby. My brother has been a role model to me. My coaches push me to be the best player I can be, and of course my teammates. They all form the Rachel Tejada you see on the field. I wouldnt be here without any of them.
Following the game, a special presentation was dedicated to Tejada by the team. Along with the presentation, Roff also presented her with the game ball, something the team hopes she will hold close to her heart.
Were all beyond thrilled. This record means a lot, Roff said. A lot of great players have walked through this program, a lot of great coaches. This puts her in elite company. She deserves national attention. Rachel works hard for each and every goal. I couldnt be more happy as her coach.
With just over half the season left, Tejada will continue to add to her record as the season progresses. Although Tejada may be pausing to take hold of this brief moment, she realizes what her main goal is.
We want to win. Its a special record, it means a lot, Tejada said. But the goal is to win our conference and to move on as far as we can. Im excited for whats left for my career here at ISU.
A dedicated captain on the field, Tejada uses the spotlight to focus the attention towards the bigger picture of team success. Records will continue to be broken this season, but Tejada strives for what is best for her entire team. When all is said and done at ISU for all-time goal record holder Rachel Tejada, she will be remembered as one of the most hardworking players to ever wear the Redbird uniform.