Game on: Soccer senior’s spirit helps score wins on, off field

Bright lights, goals, black and white checkered balls rolling across the grass, this is the scene which allows senior Ryka Shea to be in her element. As she passes the ball to the offense, she catches her breath and grins to herself. This is the place she loves to be: on the field with her teammates experiencing the type of adrenaline only a game can provide. Though Ryka always looks for a competitive edge, she also focuses on being positive on and off the field, recognizing that attitude can go a long way.

“Ryka brings a really awesome positive energy every single day, and she has the ability to make someone’s day better not just in soccer but also in her social life,” senior teammate Erin Nugent said. “That ability is something I very much admire in her.”

Ryka grew up in a family with both of her siblings playing soccer. Now, her brother plays for the US Nationals Team, and Ryka is heavily involved in the sport.

“When I was younger, my brother and sister played soccer, and they always told me I should play,” Ryka said. “At first I didn’t really want to, but it turned out that I really liked it.”

As she progressed in soccer, her first coach, Elvis, was a big motivation to her.

“He always pushed me and always knew we could do better than what we were doing and was never satisfied,” Ryka said. “I think that really helped me to work harder.”

Ryka’s position is holding midfield, a role involving defense and transitioning the ball.

“She makes very good technical decisions with the ball, but at the same time, when she’s doing one-on-one or on defense, she doesn’t lose the ball,” Erin said. “I can trust her to keep the ball in the middle.”

At Bryan High, Ryka stepped up into a leadership role and helps guide the team through games and practices.

“Ryka has learned to be a leader on and off the field,” soccer coach Chris Gibson said. “She is now the example that others look up to, and she does a great job leading the younger players.”

Ryka’s experience helps her assist the team in fixing problems that may arise during a game or during practice.

“She’s a really good soccer player, so with that comes knowledge of how to fix issues that we have,” Erin said. “As she plays, she recognizes what’s wrong, and she’s able to bring that up at half time and talk about how we can fix that.”

Ryka also works to set an example for all of the other players in her level of effort and dedication.

“She takes an active role in making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Gibson said. “She gets out to practice and doesn’t go through the motions but puts in the work. The others see that and follow her example.”

Her positive attitude during practices and games rubs off on the rest of the team and can be encouraging when the team needs it most.

“The best moments are when she miss hits a ball or slips and falls because she lets out this high pitched scream,” Gibson said. “Then she smiles really big and gets back to where she needs to be on the field. It seems to happen when the team needs something to break the tension and laugh.”

Ryka’s soccer activities are not limited to school. Several years ago, she went to the Dana Cup in Denmark with her cousin to play teams from all over the world.

“There were a bunch of teams from all over Europe,” Ryka said. “We couldn’t really communicate with them, but it was cool because they were really different from us.”

One of the biggest differences Ryka noticed was how the teams treated each other.

“Often when we play teams here, they aren’t very nice and are really competitive, but the other teams thought it was really cool we were from Texas,” Ryka said. “After we would play a game, every team we played would follow us to the next game and cheer for us.”

As Ryka prepares to graduate and continue her education and soccer career at Stephen F. Austin State University, she has made her mark on the team and her optimism and effort will not be forgotten.

“Ryka has been a joy to have in class,” Gibson said. “She has always shown up and played hard every game she has been a part of for this program. She is going to be missed, but I know she is going to continue to great things and make a positive influence in the world.”