In April 2019, Lydia Sattler chose to play in a high-profile tournament with her club soccer team instead of going to the junior prom. For Sattler, the decision was a no-brainer.
“I have a strong desire for soccer, so the answer was easy for me,” she said.
That decision alone speaks volumes into Sattler’s mindset, and a big reason why she earned a scholarship to play soccer at Stephen F. Austin University, a Division I program in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Oakwood High senior was honored by the school Wednesday as she signed her letter of intent in front of administrators, teachers, classmates, family and friends.
“This is a dream come true,” she said. “In this entire journey, I never imagined I would get here. The thrill of excitement is unbelievable, and I’m really grateful to receive this. It’s an honor.”
The 5-foot-10 Sattler ended up having the best game of her career on that April day, stopping four of five penalty kicks to help the San Jose Surf to a victory in the Cal North State Cup Championship.
“That was the most exciting, thrilling game I’ve ever played in,” she said.
In the Covid-19 era, club tournaments have fallen by the wayside, making it tougher for athletes to get recruited. Fortunately for Sattler, she had already put in the work over several years to gain the attention of college coaches. The recruiting coaches at Stephen F. Austin knew Sattler well as they watched her play in soccer camps on the Texas A&M campus six times in the last several years.
They saw Sattler’s development and game mature, and in early June the program offered her a scholarship over Zoom. Sattler said the Stephen F. Austin coaches commented on her aggressive, fearless play, and her ability to start the attack with accurate, deft passes to initiate the offense.
In terms of intangibles, Oakwood administrators and coaches raved about her work ethic, determination and sportsmanship. Former Gilroy High and Orchard Valley club coach Roney Cardoza coached Sattler starting when she was 10 or 11, the first year of her transition from rec ball to club soccer. Cardoza vividly remembers chasing Sattler and her parents down in the parking lot after one of the team’s initial tryouts to offer Sattler the goalkeeper position.
“She was really good at goalie right away,” Cardoza said. “She had good size and struggled at first with her speed and growth spurt, but I knew it was only a matter of time before her skills would catch up. She worked so hard to become an elite player.”
Cardoza marveled at Sattler’s work ethic, as she routinely stayed after games or practices for extra reps, worked on the side with various coaches and took on the challenge of practicing with the boys teams.
“At 11, she would watch the 17U boys and mimic them,” Carodoza said. “She took in everything and improved a lot by watching the boys.”
In an odd twist, Sattler earned a Division I scholarship despite having never suited up for Oakwood’s girls soccer team. Instead, Sattler chose to play basketball—her second favorite sport—and has been downright spectacular, earning unanimous Pacific Coast League Arroyo Division Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year honors. It’s not entirely uncommon for student-athletes to earn a scholarship for a particular sport they bypassed playing in high school.
Sattler’s decision to play basketball instead of soccer at Oakwood wasn’t just about her love for basketball—the choice was also strategic. Since she plays club soccer year-round, playing a different sport like basketball prevented her from soccer burnout while also improving her skills.
“There are a lot of commonalities between playing goalkeeper and basketball,” she said. “Going up for a layup translates to catching the high ball in soccer.”
Sattler also takes pride in her academics, as she won first place in the high school chemistry category in the 2020 Science South Valley Science and Engineering Fair with her project, “A Comparative Analysis of Llagas Creek Soil.”