oing to the dentist is not a happy memory for many kids but that’s not the case for sophomore Alyssa Carranza, a defender on the women’s soccer team. Growing up, she spent a lot of time in her dad’s dental office with her brother and two sisters, and there’s one thing in particular that stands out.
“I distinctly remember the smell, and I just loved it,” said Carranza, 19, laughing. “I would always play with my siblings, and we’d pretend to be dentists on each other.”
So impactful was her time there that Carranza plans to follow in her dad’s footsteps — as well those of her older sister — and pursue dental school after she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in biology. But she’s got some unfinished business on the field to take care of first.
“We really want to make it into the (NCAA) tournament,” said Carranza, who grew up in El Dorado Hills, about 30 minutes east of Sacramento. “Last year, we unfortunately got last place, but this year I think that we’re a lot stronger.”
Carranza, who was selected to the Big West Conference All-Freshman team in her first season with the Highlanders, lives in a house with four of her teammates near campus. She said the team can’t wait to compete again following last year’s pandemic-shortened season. While training is scheduled to resume in February, Big West competition will have to wait until the fall, if conditions allow.
“Because we all went through this mentally, we’re all going to be so excited to see the field,” she said. “We’re all going to work our butts off right when we get back, so I’m just excited to see how it’s going to turn out.”
Carranza is also the recipient of the 2019-20 Hueston M. and Margaret W. Harper Scholarship Award. The Harpers funded the scholarship in their parents’ names in 2006 to provide annual scholarship support for a UCR student-athlete who has demonstrated outstanding academic and athletic achievement. Carranza’s 3.6 grade point average has earned her a spot on the Dean’s Honors List. She said she put the $1,500 award toward her tuition to help out her parents — dad Uriel and mom Carmen whom Alyssa said were huge inspirations to her. Both came to the U.S. from Mexico as small children, worked in factories, and picked fruit in California’s Central Valley before meeting in junior college. When Uriel was accepted into Marquette University School of Dentistry, Carmen moved with him to Milwaukee. She now works in the front office of his practice.
“I just love making my parents proud,” Carranza said. “They did so much for me. One of the main things my dad always tells me is you have to work for what you want. It’s not given to you. And school is always first.”
One of her other favorite memories from childhood is watching a Mexico World Cup win on TV in Cabo San Lucas with her parents and grandparents, and then celebrating in the streets with the locals. While Alyssa’s parents have been able to see her play in a couple UCR road games, she’s hoping they can make it to Riverside this season for a match.
“When they came to my games, it was the best feeling ever,” she said. “I want them to watch a home game. That’s one of my goals for them.”