Students often find it difficult to attend college and balance priorities — and student-athletes make it that much more challenging when they decide to throw playing a sport into the mix.
Muñoz, who decided to pursue communication as a major while minoring in marketing said she knew right away that the University of New Mexico was the right fit for her.
“I felt really at home, especially having some past high school teammates come here,” she said. “It was really comfortable and easy for me to just transition.”
Former players Katie Hinman, Alexa Cabrales, Ashley Ballantyne and Casey Murphy all attended high school in Mission Viejo, California, which is also where Muñoz attended.
UNM women’s soccer head coach Heather Dyche said she hopes to maintain the connection with what appears to be a recruiting hotbed, but admitted it was the previous staff who got Muñoz to commit.
Dyche has been at the helm to see her growth, saying it has been pretty remarkable. She said Muñoz has always been a talented player, but really revealed herself as a leader on and off the field as one of just three seniors on the team this season.
“I’ve always felt that she’s had that quality and I think she’s just now really found that in herself and embraced it,” the head coach said.
Most students on campus never get an opportunity to get to know who student-athletes are on a personal level, but Dyche said the one thing she would want people to know about Muñoz is how much of a kind, giving person she is — a selfless type that puts team first.
Muñoz said her teammates are like family and helped her get to her goal of graduating. She said academics have always been a huge focus of the program, from the moment a player arrives as an incoming freshman.
She credited Dyche for giving her the idea, but created “Lobo Lineup”, a behind-the-scenes video look at other players on the team.
“I think that needs to be showcased more — Lobos off the field — we are way more than players, we’re people too,” Muñoz said.
The senior said she actually learned a lot about her teammates through the endeavor. She and Amelie Bierle have played all four years together, but Muñoz didn't discover Bierle’s intention to join the Peace Corps until doing a feature on her.
Dyche said it is important to harness ways for players to incorporate tangible work skills, and for an aspiring sports broadcaster, the video packaging was good experience. She said Muñoz is comfortable on camera and behind the microphone and recently accepted an internship with the New Mexico United professional soccer team.
Muñoz said soccer has always been a part of her life and has helped shape the person she is, but it definitely isn’t the only thing that defines her.
She cited dogs, chocolate milk and baby cheeks as things she is obsessed with when asked what her other interests are outside of soccer.
Some of her teammates snickered when she brought up her beverage of choice. Dyche said it is actually a pretty popular choice and is a great recovery drink. She joked that, if Muñoz plays like she did over the season, she should be able to drink all the chocolate milk she wants.
Muñoz’ boyfriend, Alex Hart, confirmed the chocolate milk obsession, quipping that “chocolate milk, sausages and asparagus are her three favorite things in the world.”
Hart, a senior linebacker on the UNM football team, said the two started dating during their sophomore year and have supported each other through their seasons. He said Muñoz has the ability to make him laugh, giving some "interesting dance moves" the nod as the most recent example.
He said Muñoz has so many great qualities and feels very fortunate to have someone who cares so much about people in his life.
He described her as a strong, intelligent young woman who will “just go get it” after she sets her mind on achieving a certain goal.
Hart also said Muñoz has displayed leadership both in the classroom and on the playing field, something that was especially evident this season after she took it upon herself to help groom such a large number of underclassmen.
“She might not be the most vocal, but she is very personable and will lead by example,” he said.
Muñoz’ game might appear to mirror her personality — multi-faceted and disciplined, but unselfish at the same time. Hart said she doesn’t have to be the leading goal-scorer to make an impact, crediting her ability to make everyone else around her better as her greatest asset.
Hart said his girlfriend has been able to leave her mark both in the classroom and on the field. He said there are so many different things he can envision Muñoz doing in the future and being successful at them, but said he knows it will be something that helps others because that is just the type of person she is.
Muñoz said things were not always easy, but getting to the UNM was a big step and graduating is a major accomplishment. She said if she could offer advice to students, it would be to “enjoy the relationships and the little things and your growth as a human being along the way.”
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.