Aaliyah Nolan will never forget the moment she got off the plane two years ago in Dallas to begin her soccer career at Navarro.
“I wanted to go back to Bermuda,'' said Nolan.
It will be a while.
After two brilliant years on the pitch at Navarro, where Nolan played the game with speed and passion, and a never-ending desire that left opponents in her wake, she's leaving the Bulldogs — and leaving with heartfelt and fond memories.
She signed a letter of intent to play soccer at Division I North Texas and says good-bye to Navarro, where her life changed.
“I'll miss a lot here,” she said. “I'll miss the coaching staff the most. I thought I was going to go back home when I got off the plane, but I'm glad I didn't.
“I was able to grow as a player and most of all, I was able to grow as a person. It's something I'll never forget. It's something I will always have with me.”
Nolan was an All-Region XIV player for two seasons and a prolific scorer who was constantly double-teamed by opponents and constantly beating them to help Navarro stay in the national rankings both years she played.
In her final season Nolan scored 23 goals and had four assists and helped lead the Bulldogs to the brink of a trip to the nationals twice.
“We are definitely going to miss her,” said Navarro coach Alicia Wilson, who made Nolan one of her top priorities in her first recruiting class. “We will miss everything about her — her being very tenacious and her never-say-die mentality, and always having a winning attitude.”
Wilson, a former player for Jamaica's national team, played against Nolan in an international tournament before coming to Navarro to coach the Bulldogs. When she got the job, Wilson returned to Bermuda to recruit the speedy striker and was thrilled when Nolan signed with Navarro. She is just as happy Nolan is headed for North Texas, which won the USA Conference title last year.
“It's a great program and they play a really good schedule against some top Division I teams,” Wilson said. “I couldn't be prouder or happier to see her take the next step following her dream.”
Nolan's dream is simple.
I want to become a professional soccer player,” she said. “And then a coach. I'm real excited about signing with North Texas. I really liked North Texas because it has my major and gives me a chance to go continue to go after my dream.”
Nolan plays for the Bermuda National team, and was awarded the Government's top women's soccer award this year — the Bermuda National Sports Award in Women's soccer.
Now she wants to make a name for herself in the NCAA Division I ranks as well.
North Texas' coaches were high on Nolan and had offered her a half scholarship when the soccer season ended, but that changed when Navarro played NT in a scrimmage recently.
“We tied them 2-2,” Wilson said. “Aaliyah scored a goal and had an assist against them and really showed them what she can do. She tore it up. The next day the coach called me and said he wanted to offer her a full scholarship.”
Navarro assistant coach Oscar Lopez said after the way Nolan played in the scrimmage he knew North Texas would offer Nolan a full ride.
“I told her at halftime, 'they are re-writing your contract right now,' '' said Lopez, who says Nolan gives a whole new meaning to the term “playing tenacious.”
“I'll tell you what you need to know about Aaliyah,” he said. “She was in a game and got knocked out and had a concussion. I came over to see how she was and she was laying on the ground. She opened her eyes and all she said was 'I want to play the game.'
“That's tenacity,'' he said. “That's the way she plays the game. That's why I call her the Tasmainian Devil. She's real quiet, and then the minute she is on the field she plays like the Tasmainian Devil.”