Last season, the University of Miami’s women’s soccer team went 9-6-5 and made it to the first round of the NCAA tournament for only the second time in the program’s history.
Times were tough, however, for junior midfielder Paulelett Ricks-Chambers, who had to watch it all from the sidelines.
Ricks-Chambers was in and out of the hospital for health reasons that were never fully understood and was granted a redshirt year.
In 2006, before her injury, she finished second on the team in goals and scoring.
“It was really difficult to watch, but I was really proud of my team,” Ricks-Chambers said. “I wanted to help keep up the success.”
She and the Hurricanes started this season on a seven-game win streak, a program record.
“I saw how much I missed the game of soccer when I was out, so that was my motivation,” the 5’4″ California native said. “I wanted to get back to playing and show all the people who said that I couldn’t do it. I trained really hard over the summer.”
With her rehabilitation, she was unable to visit her three older brothers. As a kid, they always pushed her to eat right and kicked a ball around with her. But in the first road game of the season, against Arkansas-Little Rock, all the hard work paid off as she connected on her first goal since her comeback. The Canes went on to win the game 3-0.
“It felt great, and I wanted to keep going from there,” Ricks-Chambers said.
With senior forward Rachael Rigamat’s nagging leg injury, No. 5 now often plays forward and acts as a spark on offense with her speed.
She has started all 14 games and has two goals and two assists.
“Paulelett is a special player,” head coach Tricia Taliaferro said. “She’s better than she was before the injury, and she feeds off energy and more game experience.”
As a teammate, Ricks-Chambers acts as a role model to the younger players, who have adopted her work ethic and desire to improve.
“She represents everything this team is about – the hard work and the determination,” Taliaferro said. “Having her back on the field is such a motivator for our team.”
Her experience will be needed now more than ever with the team facing a seven-game winless streak heading into Sunday’s home match against 11th-ranked Florida State (9-2-1, 3-1-0 ACC).
Despite this, the Hurricanes (7-5-2) need just two victories to tie last season’s total with, six matches left before the ACC tournament.
When asked if she would pursue a career in soccer after Miami, the elementary education and history major seemed to know where she wants her future to be after battling back:
“I think I’m going to hang up my cleats after, hopefully, my five years here,” she said.