During fall break last year, 10 players on the women’s soccer team were sitting around a table in the Campus Center. As they were eating lunch, they noticed a student out on the Campus Center Quad juggling a soccer ball.
The players watched her balance the ball precariously on the top of her foot. She paused for a moment, fully concentrated on the ball, then whipped her foot in a complete 360-degree rotation around the ball before cradling it once again between her foot and shin, perfectly executing one of the most difficult juggling maneuvers.
Then-freshman midfielder Taylor Baranowsky, who was sitting at the table watching, said she was in awe of the juggler’s footwork.
“Her touches on the ball were so precise,” she said. “She was doing ‘Around the World,’ which I can’t even do myself. I’ve tried multiple times, but it’s such a hard skill to master.”
Impressed with the player’s talent, Baranowsky and her teammates decided to go outside and get to know her, already thinking she had the potential to benefit their team in the future. The juggler introduced herself as Lindsey Parkins, a freshman forward on the college’s club soccer team at the time.
“I think it was overwhelming for her because there were 10 of us,” Baranowsky said. “We all walked out and started talking to her and juggling with her, and we told her she should try out for the team.”
When the players asked her to consider joining the team, Parkins said she didn’t think much about it. But just two months later, another incident caused her to change her mind.
Head coach Mindy Quigg was working out in the Fitness Center when she saw Parkins practicing footwork and juggling in the gym. As she was stretching on the balcony, Quigg said the abnormality of the situation struck her.
“It’s unusual to see women in there working on individual skills,” she said. “You never see that. I went down and introduced myself and told her she should be playing with us. I invited her to entertain the thought of playing with us in the spring.”
A week later, Parkins dropped by Quigg’s office in Hill Center to let her know she had decided to join the team for spring season, which begins after winter break.
“I love soccer,” Parkins said. “So I thought, ‘Why not just try out and see what happens? It can’t hurt to try.’”
Now, nine months after she joined the team during its spring season conditioning and practices, Parkins is a starting defender. She has already logged 679 minutes for the Bombers and rarely subs out. She fills a hole in the Blue and Gold’s back line left by last year’s large graduating class, and Baranowsky said she brings not only her exceptional ball-control skills, but also a remarkable work ethic and a fierce competitiveness to the team.
“As a new player, she challenges everyone,” Baranowsky said. “I think everyone hates to go against her at practice because she is just strength and speed, and she has great ball control. She has everything you need in a soccer player.”
When she first started on the team in the spring, Parkins’ tenacity was on full display. Baranowsky recalls her first memory of Parkins when she stole the ball during a spring scrimmage, dribbled it the length of the field through the other team and scored.
“At that point, we were all just thinking, ‘Who is this girl?’” Baranowsky said. “She was one of the fastest people I had ever seen.”
Parkins continued to play throughout the spring, then earned her starting spot during the team’s preseason in August. Though she initially came in as a forward, Quigg moved her to the back line because of her strength and athleticism.
Sophomore defender Aimee Chimera, who also transitioned from midfield to defense upon entering college, said having an offensively minded player like Parkins on the back line provides an element of versatility and unpredictability to the defense.
“I think [Quigg] thought ‘Well, maybe if we could put her on defense, we could also use her on the attack,’” Chimera said. “That’s one of the perks of being an outside back: You can go forward and then move back.”
In her time on the field, Parkins has already been a threat on offense. She has recorded three shots on goal — more than any other defender on the team.
At the same time, she has solidified the Bomber defense, helping a back line that has conceded just three goals on the year to six shutouts in eight games.
While her strength and cutthroat desire to win help her on the field, Parkins is a completely different person off of it. If her other hobbies are any indication of her personality, then the longboard she often rides around campus says it all.
“She’s completely chill,” Baranowsky said. “She has her longboard and just kind of strolls into practice. But once she’s there, she works extremely hard. I’ve never seen her not work hard. Ever.”
Parkins also enjoys doing CrossFit workouts and can often be found in the Fitness Center in addition to the team’s daily two-hour practices.
Then there’s her passion for juggling. She said even though she spends much of her time playing soccer with the Blue and Gold, she still finds time to juggle.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I could walk,” she said. “I have always liked juggling. It took me a long time to learn. I maybe started in elementary school with just my knees, then later added my feet and it just became this fun thing to do.”
It is also the reason she is now on the team. As a freshman, Parkins said she never considered trying out for the varsity squad because she wanted to focus on academics, even though she was twice selected to the all-county team and served as a team captain in high school. However, the encouragement from her future teammates and Quigg persuaded her to join.
Now, dedication and skill have led her to become a key part of one of the top teams in Division III.
“We had to fill an outside spot, and she showed she had all of the qualifications for that spot,” Baranowsky said. “It was just fate that we found her, honestly.