Jael Larson realized a couple of things about herself as a freshman at Durango High School. She wanted to play college soccer, and she wanted to do it at Arizona State University.
In the middle of what would have been her senior season, which was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Durango High school senior signed a National Letter of Intent to play women’s soccer’s at ASU in Tempe, Arizona.
“ASU was my dream school since my freshman year. From playing club soccer in Albuquerque and attending showcase tournaments, I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Larson said. “I went to two three or four camps there to pursue that dream. I’m really excited to make it happen.”
Larson, daughter of Jay and Lonna Larson, will join the Sun Devils coached by Graham Winkworth, who will enter his fourth season in 2020. Last year, the team went 6-11-3 overall and 0-9-2 in the mighty Pac-12 Conference a year after a 10-7-1 record and 5-5-1 mark in conference games.
The Durango High product is eager to play at the Division I level against powerhouse teams such as Stanford and UCLA.
“I’m obviously nervous, but I’m so excited to start a new chapter,” Larson said. “When I’m chasing something, I work my hardest to get there. Nerves are part of it, but I like to step up to the plate and give my all.”
Change won’t be new for Larson when it comes to the soccer field. In her three years at DHS, she played under three different head coaches. No matter who was on the sideline, though, Larson was a force to be reckoned with as a forward in the scoring third of the field.
“I would love to continue to play as a forward, but I want to also be open to trying new positions,” Larson said. “I think the skills I need to continue to work hard on for the next few months would be technical foot skills and placement of the ball when shooting.”
In three years of high school soccer, Larson and the Demons amassed a 26-19-2 overall record and a 15-7-2 mark in the 5A/4A Southwestern League. In 2017, DHS hosted a first-round state playoff game and earned a resounding 6-0 win against Cañon City.
Though DHS qualified for the state tournament all three years of her career, Larson said her fondest memories aren’t of the actual games but the bonding experiences of bus trips and team dinners.
“Jael is a fierce competitor who could always bring smiles to everyone’s faces,” said DHS head coach Melissa Halonen. “She led our team with her competitive spirit and high level of play. I never had to worry about Jael’s game effort – she was there to win and play hard always.”
Larson also was on the DHS varsity girls basketball team for three years. As a senior, she averaged nearly five points a game to go with 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals. She helped a defensive-minded Demons team to the Class 4A Sweet 16 in 2020.
She plans to study behavioral science when she arrives on the Tempe campus and is keeping her options for a major open.
Now a soon-to-be Division I athlete, Larson thanked all of her coaches, from the Durango Youth Soccer Association, her club team in Albuquerque and those at DHS for helping her become a Sun Devil.
“Almost every coach I’ve had has helped me through this process,” she said. “I think having so many different coaches was a test for me, and I dealt with it well and tried to make the best of each situation. Playing club three hours away, it has all helped me adapt to different scenarios and cultures. It has all allowed me to be ready for something completely new.”