Former Naugy soccer earns postgraduate award to study, fight disease
Like many college student-athletes who are so passionate about their sports that they can’t conceive of giving them up after graduation, Naugatuck’s Jasmine Grey isn’t exactly sure what her future holds.
Unlike others, however, she has a unique perspective on her future. At the conclusion of her senior season at Western Connecticut State University, she will somehow compartmentalize the sport she’s played since she was 4 so that she can focus on something much more important.
The honors student majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry with a 3.74 grade-point average has earned one of the 10 Barry Goldwater Scholarship postgraduate awards given to college students in Connecticut. The others honored were from Yale, UConn and Wesleyan.
“I want to somehow study a disease and understand it enough to figure out better treatment options or a way to cure the disease,” Grey said. “I’m not sure what disease I want to study because as I have been applying to grad schools I’ve found an astronomical amount of options. But I am very passionate about pathogens because they cause so much suffering around the world. My goal is to decrease that suffering.”
Last year’s Little East Defensive Player of the Year in women’s soccer approached this season intent on leading WestConn to an NCAA Tournament win, but this past summer she spent 10 weeks at Cornell working in a biology research lab to prepare herself for bigger challenges.
She spent the summer of 2018 in Western’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. She has narrowed her top four graduate school choices to Cornell, Princeton, Boston University and UConn.
“She is absolutely a committed person who has big goals in life,” WestConn head coach Alex Harrison said. “She is a wonderful person who comes from a wonderful family, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have such a great, great kid in our program.”
Although she was the best defender in the league last year, Harrison is more impressed with her ability to organize and execute everything in her life on and off the soccer pitch.
“When you watch her out on the field, you are going to be inspired by what she does and how hard she works,” he said. “You can tell by the results she gets on the field and her academic success as well that she is a leader. Kids like her are going to be very successful in life because you tell her how to do something once and she executes it and then builds off of it.”
Grey has been a work in progress her entire soccer career. While at Naugatuck High, she earned All-Iron Division honors, but never All-Naugatuck Valley League recognition. Nonetheless, she played for the Meriden-based Academica Football Club, and the thought of not playing in college never crossed her mind.
Harrison was thrilled that he could lure her to WestConn with its strong biology program, the summer research option and a soccer program good enough to earn NCAA Tournament berths. The Pioneers are 10-4-1 this season, including 4-0 in the Little East.
“She is an out and out defender,” he said. “There are not many kids that go up against her one-on-one and win battles. She is obviously a very intelligent player who takes instruction well, and she has the athleticism to go with her IQ. A kid isn’t going to just knock the ball past her or run by her. She is very tough to beat.”
She not only loves to play, but she loves the pressure of being in a critical position like center back.
“I feel like I am the last line, and if I mess up, it could cost us a goal or the game,” she said. “I like having that pressure because it makes me try my best every single game. I like tackling. I love the feeling when I win the ball from an opponent and distribute it to our midfield. It is like I did my job and prevented a forward from getting by me, and then I was able to help my team go forward.”
After this season, she will likely play intramural or club soccer.
“I’m sure that I will definitely continue playing in some capacity because it is almost scary for me to think after this season I won’t be playing on the college level anymore,” Grey said. “I have always been the type of person who just makes things happen.
“Even though it is a balancing act having such a rigorous schedule with soccer and difficult courses that have gotten tougher every year, I just knew that I could do it. I don’t know what I expected from myself, but I am proud of my journey in soccer over the last four years. I feel like I have come a long way, and I still have a lot of great things I want to accomplish on and off the field.”