Chace Miguel had done such a great job of convincing herself that she was done with soccer upon graduating from San Benito High in 2015 that even her mom, Gae, thought her daughter would never play again. Apparently, Gae made a bet with a family friend that Chace’s competitive playing days were over.
“I was burnt out and didn’t see myself playing anymore,” Chace said. “But even during that time when I took a year off, my sister’s friend said that I didn’t know it, but I would realize in a year or two how much I would miss the game. She was right.”
After a year off, Miguel played two years at Hartnell College, producing a spectacular senior season in which she amassed 25 goals and seven assists in leading the Panthers to a berth in the NorCal Playoffs. Miguel, who did well enough to receive interest from Division I programs, ultimately decided to play at Cal State East Bay, a solid Division II program in Hayward.
Even then, continuing to play after her first season at Hartnell was far from a foregone conclusion.
“Once I decided to play again, I told myself that I would play just one year, finish my general-education requirements and go to a four-year school,” she said. “But I finished one year and realized I had to play one more season or I would regret it. Then I played two years at Hartnell and figured I wouldn’t play anymore after that. Then I started getting looks from four-year schools, and felt like I was hitting my peak this season, so why stop now? I felt like I had improved so much this season, and wanted to see where I could take this.”
For Miguel, staying closer to home was an easy choice. So much of Miguel’s happiness in soccer stems from her family being able to watch her games and cheer her on. In fact, Miguel’s parents, Gae and Joey, didn’t miss a single game in Miguel’s two-year career at Hartnell.
“My parents even traveled to Ventura one time to watch me play,” Miguel said. “My mom is super excited and loves to watch me play.”
Miguel has been putting on one sweet show for her family and friends. Blending a combination of speed, game smarts and athleticism, Miguel developed into a bona-fide goal-scoring threat this season after doing something that came unnaturally for her: keep the ball rather than pass it to her teammates.
Coaches implored Miguel to be more selfish, knowing a Miguel shot would be the team’s best shot.
“I had to step up, stop passing so much and take it on my own,” she said.
Miguel’s biggest breakthrough came not just physically—she got stronger in college—but mentally.
“My biggest growth was in the mental side of the game,” she said. “I used to be scared to make mistakes. If I missed a shot, my attitude was I’m not going to shoot the ball anymore. But I’ve kind of developed that attitude of it doesn’t matter if I miss.”
Miguel was always intense and focused a lot on her perceived failings that it often robbed the joy out of playing. However, a couple of games into her sophomore season, Miguel had an epiphany in the form of her coaches yelling this to her during a game: just have fun. And just like that, Miguel realized she didn’t have to be so hard on herself or take the game so seriously.
Rather, Miguel just had to be free and not care so much.
“I just needed to have a fun attitude,” she said. “That is when everything started coming together. Coach (Ivan Guerrero) told me, ‘Nobody cares if I miss a shot.’ And my sister (Paige) saw during a game how frustrated I would get and told me it was all mental, that I didn’t have to get upset and needed to mentally re-center myself back in the game.”
With a newfound mental approach, Miguel was able to rebound from any perceived negative plays—a missed shot, for example—and visualized moving forward and putting the next shot into the back of the net.
“Chace’s attitude was her biggest asset,” Guerrero said. “She was always up to the challenge, and she’s already getting ready for the coming fall. Her versatility as an attacking player is also a big asset, and she can play multiple positions on the attack.”
A productive two years at Hartnell was capped by a big honor, as Miguel earned the college’s Female Scholar Athlete of the Year award, given to a player who combined high achievements academically and athletically along with community service. Miguel and Ricky Esqueda—another former San Benito High standout—each received $1,000 as part of the award.
Miguel, who had a 4.0 GPA last semester and a 3.6 cumulative GPA for two years, has coached younger girls and also worked Hartnell College soccer camps. It’s one way Miguel has given back to the game that has given so much to her. Going forward, Miguel doesn’t know which position she’ll play in college.
“It’s a little scary, but change isn’t terrible,” she said.
For Chace Miguel, change has always led her to further growth.