Together again Bear River, NU soccer players headed to Biola |

Together again Bear River, NU soccer players headed to Biola

One is a defensive stalwart with a quiet and fierce demeanor, while the other is a midfield visionary with an easy laugh and friendly smile.

At first glance, the players appear to be quite different. Underneath, the surface lurks a shared history that in a few months will continue to grow as the two head off to play college soccer together.

Nevada Union’s Leigh Collins and Bear River’s Nikki Mathis have spent the past four years playing dominant roles on their respective high school teams, but actually began their soccer careers together.

In sixth grade, Collins decided to join her neighbor’s club soccer team – the Goal Diggers – a team in which Mathis was already a member.

Both players laugh when they remember those early days together, noting they instantly became friends.

However, after playing together for a few seasons, the two parted ways to play on different club teams and eventually different high school teams. The friendship stayed strong though as the girls constantly ran into each other at tournaments or games in the area.

Upon entering high school, both players were moved up to their school’s varsity squads as freshmen. Each earned a spot in the starting lineup from their first season.

Collins made her mark on defense, where she was named first-team all-Metro during her sophomore and junior seasons in addition to being named Nevada Union’s Defensive Player of the Year those same seasons. Her junior year and again this year she was named team captain.

Nevada Union coach Mike Voss lists Collins’ strengths as her energy, intensity and overall knowledge of the game.

Meanwhile, Mathis did her damage in the midfield at Bear River. She earned first team all-Pioneer Valley League honors as a freshman and honorable mention all-PVL honors as a sophomore. This season, like Collins, she is the captain on her team.

“Nikki is one of those kids that makes everyone on her team look better,” Bear River soccer coach Dave Barnes said. “What a package. She can defend well, she makes great decisions and has the moves necessary to get out from under pressure.”

This past fall the two players were reunited as Mathis was the new player this time joining Collins’ Placer United Prestige team. Each relished the chance to play together again, but thought it was probably for the last time.

But this spring, the two were invited to try-out to for the Biola University soccer team. Upon comparing notes, the two realized they had both been invited to the try-out and decided to make the trip together.

A few weeks later, Collins and Mathis received word that they had made the team for next fall.

“It definitely makes me feel more comfortable knowing there is going to be someone there I can relate to,” Collins said.

Mathis echoed Collins in saying, “It’s weird how it all turned out. It’s just neat when you see people continue to play that you have played with from the start.”

Biola University is located in the Southern California community of La Mirada and is a NAIA school. The Eagles finished with a 7-5-4 record last season and were ranked No. 18 for NAIA schools.

Neither player will receive athletic scholarships for at least their first season as head coach Michael Silzer reserves that money for his starters. Collins did receive academic scholarships as she has better than a 4.0 grade point average at Nevada Union and wants to study engineering.


To contact sports writer Stacy Hicklin, e-mail or call 477-4244.

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