By Clay Whittington Belton Journal Sara Navarro did not choose a school. She picked a home. For years, the Lady Tigers’ standout soccer player has been preparing for the next step in her career. Along with sharpening her skills on the pitch, the midfielder worked to garner attention from collegiate coaches. After a series of setbacks, however, Navarro was noticed, and a relationship with Louisiana-Monroe blossomed, prompting her to commit to the program during a ceremony on National Signing Day. Although other schools presented offers, nothing compared. “They expressed how interested they were in me,” Navarro said, “and that meant a lot because of everything I had gone through. ULM just really stood out to me because of the effort all the coaches put in to make me feel wanted. “It was just the obvious choice.” Navarro originally embarked on the recruiting process as an underclassman, but injuries and the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down virtually all group athletics across the country, created hurdles. Without a stage to perform on, she was forced to become creative. Thanks to modern technology, though, Navarro spliced together videos highlighting her abilities and distributed them to schools of interest along with emails stating her intentions. Admittedly, the routine was draining. “It was really stressful,” she said, “because a lot of times, I wouldn’t get responses. They wanted to see me play in person, and that wasn’t possible. But once I got to start playing again, I started getting more and more emails from coaches. “That really lifted my spirits, because I was down for a while due to not getting any interest.” Once restrictions loosened, Navarro took part in multiple soccer showcases, where college coaches descend to catch glimpses of potential future talent. At an event in Tennessee, there was a mutual attraction. “I realized the ULM coaches came out and watched all my games,” Navarro said, “so I reached out to them first. I got a response very quickly, and he said that he was going to reach out to me, but I beat him to it. “That was exciting. Then, I went to visit, and I loved it there, because it reminded me of home.” Now, Navarro hopes to cap off her time at Belton by earning a fourth consecutive District 12-6A championship and another all-district selection. She was a member of the first team as a sophomore and junior along with being placed on the all-region team last year. The goals require Navarro to remain focused, but she is also making sure to enjoy her remaining moments with the Lady Tigers. “I’m definitely trying to soak everything up,” she said. “I’m trying to not let it fly by too fast. I just want to take in all the small moments, especially because we have a lot of new players. “I’m just trying to take in every second before I have to go off to college.”