Averie Collins doesn’t wear her national championship ring, but few would blame the Bozeman product if she did.
She earned it, totaling 13 points in a 2017 season that saw the Pac-12 secure its fifth NCAA women’s soccer title.
Things were different then, namely her jersey and a more rigid curriculum.
Collins, Washington State’s gifted graduate transfer midfielder, came to the Palouse last summer by way of Stanford.
She’s now in a position to help the Cougars make a Cardinal-like postseason run.
Washington State (13-6-1) visits top-seeded Virginia (17-1-3) on Friday in the second round of the NCAA championship, the Cougars’ eighth appearance in the tournament field in nine years.
The winner will face either West Virginia (11-7-2) or Central Connecticut (13-4-4) in the third round on Sunday at the same venue in Charlottesville, Virginia.
For all Washington State has done in recent history, it has yet to advance past the third round and into the quarterfinals.
Collins believes the Cougars can get there.
She would know.
“That’s what I love about soccer, on any given day, any team can win,” said Collins, who earned a management science degree from Stanford last spring. “We’ve already faced some of the top teams in conference, and Virginia is also one of best teams.”
Top-ranked Stanford, seventh-ranked UCLA, ninth-ranked USC, Washington, Colorado, Arizona and WSU are the Pac-12 representatives remaining in the year’s NCAA Tournament field.
The Cougars finished sixth in the soccer-rich league, its only wins against tournament qualifiers from the Pac-12 coming in a 1-0 triumph at then-No. 20 California and a 4-1 win over Colorado.
WSU also clipped No. 14 and AAC champion Memphis 1-0 last week in Pullman to open tournament, its third straight first-round win.
Collins ranks second on the team in points (15) and goals (five) behind fellow senior Morgan Weaver (24 points, 10 goals), one of the WSU’s all-time greats.
“She’s done a great job for us,” WSU coach Todd Schulenberger said of Collins. “She’s a great mentor, on and off the field.”
So why did Collins leave a great NCAA soccer program in Stanford – the Cardinal won the Pac-12 each of her three years on campus – for a good one in Washington State?
“WSU plays a more athletic brand of soccer that fit me better,” she said. “I wanted to go to a place where I had a more integral role, and I felt more at home at WSU.
“Stanford will always be my home and had three good years there, but WSU has more a family atmosphere.”
Growing up in Bozeman – home of Montana State University – the small, college-town atmosphere resonated with Collins.
The two-time Gatorade Montana Player of the Year at Bozeman High is among the best to have come out of the Treasure State, totaling 57 goals and 29 assists.
Collins is the daughter of former Washington Redskins defensive end and Bozeman native Shane Collins, the 47th overall pick in the 1992 draft out of Arizona State. He also won an NCAA national title in shot put.
Her brother, Grant Collins, wrapped his collegiate football career in 2018 at Montana State, where he was a starting linebacker.
“Sports were also a big part of our family,” Collins said. “ (Dad) instilled in me the love to compete, and that hard work and effort are the things you can control.”
Against an ACC champion Virginia team on its home field, Collins and Schulenberger know WSU will have to have its best effort.
“This is a Stanford, UCLA and USC-type of game,” Schulenberger said. “We’re going to have to do a good job defensively.”
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