As the sun dips behind the scenic “Prado,” in the heart of Spain’s mystical capital, a sporting rivalry unfolds a few miles away under the floodlights of the Vicente Calderón, home of soccer club, Atlético de Madrid. Last year, Atlético Madrid finished runner-up in the most prestigious club competition around the world, losing to cross-town rivals, Real Madrid. Known as the Champions League, this competition draws in millions of viewers from around the world. Yet, it might come to one’s surprise that this gargantuan club has a connection here in Charleston, one that seems to have benefited the women’s soccer team greatly.
After spending six years in the youth teams of Atlético Madrid, and making her debut with the first team, Laura Ortega decided to move across the Atlantic to continue her career at the College. Scoring two goals and assisting four more, Ortega had a bright start to her college career, even though the initial acclimation period off the field was difficult. “I’m feeling so much better than last year, it was difficult for me to adapt to the way we play soccer here, because it is different than how we play in Spain and Europe.” Yet she was not alone, as Ortega had many new teammates that would always have her back. “I miss my family and friends in Spain, but this is my home now, I have my friends and teammates here, who are always helping me with everything.”
This year, the women’s soccer team has been performing much better on the pitch, with a 8-4-1 overall record. Ortega, now a central figure on the field, has had a hand in many of the goals. She has already passed her point total from all of last year, which she attributes to a better understanding with her teammates and better acclamation with the style of college soccer. While taking each game at a time, Ortega believes that the team is on course for a very successful year. “We are working hard and I think all of us are feeling better than last year, and hopefully we can do well in the conference.”
While continuing her dominance on the field, Ortega is excited to begin her major, Exercise Science. Looking toward this year, Ortega has a fabulous opportunity to travel to the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. “If there are fourteen players or so around the team, I think that I am one of them.” With that in mind, her foremost focus is here in Charleston, steering her team to the conference finals and then hopefully the NCAA tournament. With the team in red-hot form, and Ortega’s contributions continuing to propel the team forward, it is hard to imagine this Charleston team facing the same fate as her former one, Atlético de Madrid.