Just when Sierra Colby was finally ready to take the field, she was sidelined, first by an injured knee in the fall, and then by mononucleosis.
As the new year started, the senior was healthy and ready to show her offensive abilities, following two years mostly spent as Sunrise Mountain’s goalkeeper out of necessity.
On Jan. 7 she scored the Mustangs’ first goal during a 2-1 victory against Willow Canyon. She said the strike helped regain lost confidence.
“I was looking forward to it a lot. The coach did say something like, ‘It’s your senior year and you’ll play on the field more.’ When he would tell me I’d be playing in the goal for a game I would get a little sad but I did whatever is best for the team,” Colby said. “Having my injury and having mono has made me really frustrated because coming into my senior year I was hoping to have a really good year and it hasn’t started the greatest. I’m getting back into it and I was happy to score in my first game back. That was a really big confidence boost for me.”
Coach Erik Andersen admitted that he still is figuring out the best spot for Colby.
Her knee was healthy enough to play in the team’s preseason tournament. Colby said she played in the season opener Dec. 10 at Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep but felt the mono coming on that day.
“Her club team plays her at center back and center mid. We play her at forward right now. She had a knee injury in August and didn’t play until high school season started. She’s played striker and center mid. She really tried to get her fitness back but it’s been a struggle because of mono. We haven’t really found a spot for her yet,” Andersen said.
While she does not have a permanent position, Andersen said Colby excels in a specific role for the Mustangs.
He said she is a great ball winner, skilled at being first to the ball and winning balls out of the air, then getting possession for the team.
“She is willing to do whatever the team needs her to. That is why she stepped in and played in goal,” Andersen said. “This year has been hard because she has missed a lot of time and not been around so she hasn’t been able to build those relationships as much as we would like. That is a big part of us getting better to peak at the right time and reach our full potential.”
Oddly enough, Colby warmed to playing in goal soon after picking up the sport.
She started playing at age 11 after trying gymnastics in her younger years. Quickly she decided soccer was her favorite sport.
“I actually never played in rec leagues. I started my first year I ever played soccer in clubs,” Colby said.
She played in goal during her first three years in the sport.
A bit young for her freshman class, Colby skipped playing for Sunrise Mountain her freshman year and stuck with the club season.
She wanted to play her sophomore year but was not expecting to be back between the pipes.
“Coming into my sophomore year that’s when I kind of tried to switch to field. But some of the girls on the team knew I was a good goalie and we needed one so I kind of stepped up for the goalie position that year,” Colby said. “I liked goalie a lot and I felt like I was pretty good at it but when I had those moments to play on the field, it felt really good to do that more.”
Junior goalkeeper MacKenzie Sullivan moved in midway through last season and by this year, she provided Sunrise Mountain a full-time solution in goal.
“She’s always wanted to play on the field but she’s gone where the team has needed her,” Andersen said. “MacKenzie Sullivan arrived from California around this time last year. She started with our JV team and has been working hard and taking steps.”
Colby is one of five seniors on the team and she’s the last to the party. Forwards Brooke McCarthy, Anna Ramirez and Jenna Sanders and defender Lauren Hill have played on the Mustangs’ varsity since their freshman year.
McCarthy and Ramirez are the captains but Colby said the five seniors share leadership.
“We’ve bonded. I didn’t try out my freshman year here because I’m a little younger than everyone else. I just stuck with club, which I really regret. But since my sophomore year we’ve been the five in the same class and we’ve grown with each other,” Colby said. “We’ve been really looking forward to it because we’ve continued to win region champs and are looking to do it four times in a row.”
Their freshman year was Andersen’s first as the Mustangs coach. That season Sunrise Mountain won its 4A region and reached the state quarterfinals.
The last two seasons ended in close losses to Thunderbird in a double overtime 4A first round game and in 2019 to Willow Canyon in a 5A play in game.
“All of the senior class were freshmen when I took over the program. Before our girls program had won three region championships since the school opened, with them we have won our region championship all three years,” Andersen said. “I think that shows how important they have been in establishing our culture and expectations. We focus a lot on our relationships and trying to be our best and less on winning. Now, they get to pass on their experience and knowledge to continue to elevate our culture.”
Colby plans to attend Glendale Community College to finish her prerequisite classes first. She is not sure if she will play soccer in college, though she said right now she is leaning toward focusing on academics.
Colby said she wants to study exercise science so she can be a physical therapist.