Sunday, May 27

Waiting for her shot: Bruin goes from UCLA women’s soccer manager to team’s first-ever walk-on

Ariel Krakowsky, a junior midfielder on the UCLA women's soccer team, trained with the team as a freshman, served as a team manager as a sophomore and became the first-ever walk-on player on the team this year.

Ariel Krakowsky, a junior midfielder on the UCLA women's soccer team, trained with the team as a freshman, served as a team manager as a sophomore and became the first-ever walk-on player on the team this year.

Tim Bradbury

Tim Bradbury

Junior midfielder Ariel Krakowsky participated in soccer and track at Campbell Hall High School. She now plays for UCLA as the first-ever walk-on player for the UCLA women’s soccer team.

Doing laundry. Arriving early to practice. Setting up equipment for drills. Fetching balls. And doing more laundry.

That’s the glamour of being a team manager.

It was not the role Ariel Krakowsky dreamed of having on the UCLA women’s soccer team.

But it was the role she chose to accept on her road to becoming the team’s first-ever walk-on player.

“You could write a movie script about her story of how she wanted to get here,” coach B.J. Snow said.

Despite leading the team in goals in her last two years at Campbell Hall High School and having been named league MVP as a senior, the Encino, Calif. native was not recruited by any major college.

Once she got into UCLA, it was easy to pick the school where she had watched women’s soccer games since she was 8 years old.

“As I grew older, I really, really wanted to play here and even though I didn’t get recruited, I didn’t want to let that stop me from at least attempting to play here,” Krakowsky said.

She joined the club soccer team in her freshman year and ended up practicing with the women’s soccer team in the spring.

In an end-of-the-year meeting, the coaches told her that she had shown the ability to play at the college level, but that there was not a spot available for her on the squad.

Instead, they offered her the position of team manager, which she instantly accepted.

“We offered her the spot as a manager and she didn’t even think twice about it,” Snow said.

“She just wanted to know “˜Where do I need to be and what do I need to do.’”

Nevertheless, her desire to make the team was still burning bright.

“When she joined our program, (she) did it with zero expectations,” Snow said.

“Certainly, she had her sights set on the possibility, at some point in time, a spot opening up on the team, but she never thought that that was a real possibility and she did her job as a manager very, very well.”

She spent her sophomore year balancing her duties as team manager while still going to club soccer practice and games on top of her schoolwork.

She never outwardly complained as she did her work as team manager, primarily because there was no one who could relate to her situation.

“(I would) be upset and didn’t know what was going to happen and was kind of frustrated of being stuck in this limbo situation of “˜would I be able to play or would I just be doing laundry?’” she said.

When the season was over, Krakowsky was once again allowed to practice with the team during the winter and spring. Even though the odds were against her, she never considered quitting.

However, during finals week of her sophomore year, she once again had a meeting with the coaches to discuss her situation.

After asking her several questions, Snow finally broke the news:

Ariel Krakowsky had made the UCLA soccer team.

And not only did she make the team, she was the team’s first ever walk-on.

“We had the ability for a spot to open up and it was a no-brainer to think of her first as somebody that can join our program as a player,” Snow said.

The tears started to flow as she was finally given the chance to accomplish her dream.

“Once I found out that I made this team, it was one of the first times that I’ve actually ever been really, really proud of myself because I wanted something and did my best that I could to make it happen and I was able to,” Krakowsky said.

Her teammates were all proud to learn that their former manager would be playing alongside them, and credited her trademark positive attitude for her success.

“Despite all the odds and despite everything that she was up against, she always remained positive and always believed that she can do it and she still has that mentality even now,” redshirt junior goalkeeper Alana Munger said.

Even with the positive outpour, Krakowsky found herself on the bench more often than the field when the season started. Yet, this did not dampen her mood.

“The goal for our season is to win a national championship and if I’m not one of the 11 that can be on the field contributing to that, that doesn’t mean that in any way I’m … a less important member of the team,” Krakowsky said.

“The bench has a really big role in encouraging from the sidelines and keeping everyone’s energy up … so I normally don’t ever stop yelling words of encouragement from the sidelines.”

Krakowsky would get her chance to shine during a 7-0 blowout win over Princeton back in mid-September.

The junior midfielder entered the game for the first time as a Bruin and played 13 minutes while recording a shot on goal.

All of her hard work and perseverance through the tough travels of her journey had paid off. Her dream had been achieved.

“(It’s) just a dream come true,” she said.

“To be able to wake up in the morning and put on a UCLA uniform and wear these four letters across my chest, even if I’m not playing in games, just being a part of it is so much more than I had ever expected.”

While it’s easy to look at a box score and see that she hasn’t played since that game, it does not even begin to measure the impact she has had on this team off the field.

“She brings endless support for the team,” said junior midfielder Chelsea Braun.

“Whether someone’s having a bad day, she’ll be someone to pat you on the back and pick you up and bring everyone’s spirits up.”

And even if she never plays in another game as a Bruin, Krakowsky wouldn’t change a thing.

“Everyday I’m living my dream,” she said. “When I go to practice in the morning … I constantly remind myself that this is something that I’ve wanted for so long.”

This story may not have a Hollywood-style ending, but the credits have yet to begin rolling.

“I just think this story is so powerful in the sense that you should never give up on a dream that you have,” Krakowsky said.

“It’s about the journey of how I got to be where I am and it’s still going.”

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