For most freshman Blue Devils, their first summer is filled with long, unglamorous hours of work on the pitch in the middle of hot Durham summers, trying to make a name for themselves at Duke.
However, for one Blue Devil, a litany of goals and accomplishments were earned even before setting foot on Koskinen Stadium.
This summer, freshman Sophie Jones won the 2018-19 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year, perhaps the most prestigious awards given to high school soccer players in the country. Jones was awarded the honor in June for her accomplishments during her illustrious senior season, during which she notched 18 goals and 16 assists en route to a Central Coast Section Division I sectional tournament title.
“I was just at practice at the U20 National Team camp that I was recently at and the winner of last year, Isabella D'Aquila...was like ‘Hey Soph congrats.’ I had no idea what she was talking about, and she was like ‘Oh you won the California State Player of the Year,'’’ Jones said. “I never would have thought that I could win that. Today I thought I was doing an interview with my parents about the state award and all my family and friends surprised me and [Pro Football Hall of Famer and family friend] Steve Young actually handed me the award.”
Jones then received the news that she became a finalist for the national version of the award.
On June 19, Jones became the first women's soccer player to win the Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year in her high school’s history. While the honor may have caught Jones by surprise, to many the well-deserved award was an expected milestone to add on to a long list of achievements for the Menlo Park, Calif., native.
Jones won the 2018 United Soccer Coaches Youth Girls National Player of the Year, played with the FIFA U17 National team in 2017, and trained with the U20 National Team at the end of her senior campaign. It’s safe to say that Jones is no stranger to recognition at the highest level for her performances, and she made that clear when asked how the award made her feel as she prepares to play for the Blue Devils.
“It’s definitely nice to be recognized for hard work and stuff like that, but my confidence is not really based on what other people say,” Jones said. “It’s definitely a nice thing but coming in trying to make an impact as much as I possibly can and taking each day as a new step to get better hopefully as a team.”
Perhaps Jones’ level of maturity is what helped her earn the award in the first place. According to the Gatorade Press Release, along with high achievement in the classroom and on the field, Jones regularly volunteered as a youth soccer coach and with the Special Olympics. Jones clearly understands the significance of being selected by Gatorade, and the importance of what she’s been able to accomplish so far.
“I think this one’s about more than just how you are as a player, it’s about how you are as a person and I think that’s really cool,” Jones said. “It’s so nationally recognized. So many amazing people have won it in the past for so many different sports and soccer. I think the magnitude of the award is what makes it so cool.”
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Jones will be able to use her talent immediately for the Blue Devils, notching starts in both of Duke's first two games of the fall. With her knack for scoring, unselfishness and poise as a leader by example, her rookie season could be one for the books, and quench the thirst of Blue Devil fans longing to see a national championship.