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Students/Faculty News Rylan Gray December 21, 2023

asha zuniga

Asha Zuniga, UAB women’s soccer player and team captain – and a senior in the B.S. in Health Care Management program, was named Conference USA (C-USA) 2023 Women’s Soccer Scholar Athlete of the Year. Students chosen for this award excel on and off the field, demonstrate exceptional leadership skills, and provide service in their community.

“I’m honored to be recognized for this award because the voters had to look at me beyond my athletic ability to be considered, it’s deeper than just stats,” said Zuniga, who ends her UAB career with 83 total matches played – the most ever for UAB women’s soccer. “Athletes are often recognized for what they are doing in their respective sport but not for who they are as people. This award recognizes athletes for what they do on and off the field and in their community. It is a good reflection of what our team did this year and I believe any girl standing next to me could have been awarded as well.”

The Lakeland, Florida native started playing soccer at just four years old. Inspired by her middle older brother, Zuniga began her soccer career just wanting to be like him and spend time on the field. Once her interest in the sport grew, her father started to train her to teach her to play the right way, being that her father played soccer too. By the time she was 10 years old, she dropped T-ball, softball, and gymnastics to focus solely on soccer and started to play competitively.

“My dad has definitely been the one of most instrumental people in my life to help get me to this point,” said Zuniga. “He was my coach up until I was around 14 years old and has been there every step of the way.”

No stranger to earning awards, in 2022 Zuniga was awarded C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, C-USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, C-USA All Conference First Team, C-USA First Team All-Academic, and C-USA Fall Spirit award to name a few. Amongst it all, Zuniga maintains to sustain UAB Dean’s List and UAB President’s List honors while serving as Vice President of the UAB Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

“Academically I’ve always been self-driven,” said Zuniga. “I just have a passion to succeed, and I want to be the best at whatever I’m doing. That probably comes from my parents.”

Zuniga’s leadership on and off the field was a key component for her being chosen for this award. From big play execution, to motivating her teammates, to leading a record number of diaper packed boxes at a community diaper drive, Zuniga has knack for getting the most out people.

“I had a mentor in high school that helped me a lot. When I was in the eighth grade, I was on the high school varsity soccer team while she was a junior on the team and team captain. She took me under her wing, and it really impacted me wanting to play college soccer and the route I would take to get there,” said Zuniga. “She was always someone who I admired, and it meant a lot that she took the time to look out for me. We are still close, and I owe a lot of my leadership skills to her from watching her be captain.”

“Most of the time, helping someone else doesn't take a lot out of you,” said Zuniga. “Big or small it’s usually just a good deed to help someone and enjoy doing it with my team.”

Upon graduation, Zuniga plans to continue her soccer career. When her playing days are over, she wants to still be around the game and continue to live an athletic lifestyle. “Beyond my playing days, I want to go into sports medicine, specifically medical sales, but I know I'll always still want to be involved in sports.”

Zuniga 2nd Team AAC

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