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(Left to right) Sophomore defender Avery Thies, (32), and senior defender Sarah Everett, (24,) participated in Soccer United Against Hunger to help those suffering from food insecurity. Photo credit: Courtesy of Sarah Everett

While preparing for its upcoming season, Texas State’s women’s soccer participated in Soccer United Against Hunger, raising money and collecting food items for those suffering from food insecurity.

Organized by the NCAA, the program was not only an opportunity for the team — which raised over $500 and collected more than 2,600 food items — to show its support for local communities but also a chance for its members to touch base with one another. The Bobcats organized themselves into three regions: The Austin area, the Dallas-Forth Worth area and the Houston area.

With the guidance and leadership from Soccer United Against Hunger, over 500 Division I soccer teams followed the lead of four Division I soccer coaches who originally came up with the idea of the food drive after looking for ways to help their local communities amid COVID-19.

The NCAA provided resources and guidelines, such as requiring players to stay home while raising money and food, to protect those participating from the virus.

Sarah Everett, a senior defender, helped coordinate the Sun Belt branch of the program and paved the way for other schools, such as the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at San Antonio, University of the Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist University, to get involved.

Everett worked to make sure the organizations the team donated to accepted in-person donations, believing it was important to know exactly who it was donating to.

“[Caritas of Austin], for example, was one of our Austin organizations, and the Caritas building is literally across the street from Austin’s biggest homeless shelter,” Everett said. “So it was really eye-opening to be able to take food there and see across the street the people’s lives that you are impacting.”

According to senior midfielder Renny Moore, who participated in the food drive, there was an overwhelming amount of support.

“It was almost [like] I had too many people who were wanting to donate; it wasn’t hard to find anyone,” Moore said. “A lot of people are struggling right now, but the people who are doing okay are trying to help out as much as they can.”

After its offseason was cut short in March due to COVID-19, the team lost out on what is typically an opportunity to build team chemistry. However, participating in Soccer United Against Hunger allowed the team to make up for some of the time missed and gave incoming freshmen the chance to meet their new teammates.

“Usually you wouldn’t talk to the freshmen as much because you just don’t know them as well,” said Avery Thies, a sophomore defender. “But with us, I was talking to them all the time asking about donations.”

Freshman midfielder Emma Jones says she was happy to connect with the team through the program before getting the opportunity to play on the field.

“It was really cool to have that sense of camaraderie and to know that the upperclassmen are there for us when we haven’t even stepped on the field together yet,” Jones said.

As the off-season winds down, the team is focusing on its upcoming season. It has already begun conducting limited voluntary workouts with precautions in place. Practice with the full team began Aug. 4 with two-a-days.

There is still no guarantee fall sports will be played; however, Everett says she is ready for the season.

“We’re lucky enough to get the Sun Belt commissioner to let us go as long as we can while keeping us all safe and our health as a priority, but we want to play,” Everett said.

After a delay to the start of the fall season, the Bobcats are slated to play at home Sept. 4 against Stephen F. Austin University.

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