Junior defender Monique Iannella remembers the long car rides all too well.
Growing up, the native Australian would leave school with her mom at recess time from Mount Gambier and trek to soccer trainings in Adelaide, a 10-hour round trip, three to four days per week. There were nights she wouldn’t get home until 2 a.m., often doing much of her studying and sleeping in the car — all for a dream to play soccer.
“My family’s support was phenomenal,” Iannella said. “Eventually I felt bad seeing [my mom] how she was so tired. She’d force me to sleep in the car, and I wouldn’t want to because I wanted to try and make sure she was okay.”
Before she began playing soccer, Iannella played many different sports and was a talented ballet dancer and singer. But at the age of eight, her passion quickly changed when one day her brother’s soccer coach asked if she wanted to participate at a practice. Iannella was hooked.
“I just fell in love with it,” Iannella said. “I liked the challenge of doing something that you don’t do every day — using your feet.”
During her high school days, Iannella quickly made a name for herself playing for club teams, even drawing interest from the professional ranks. She signed with her first pro team at only 16
She played pro soccer in Australia for four years. Even after high school, while she attended the University of Melbourne to study commerce law, Iannella continued to play professionally. But she suffered a knee injury and underwent four operations after signing with Melbourne City FC before the 2015-16 season.
“I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play again,” Iannella said.
The injury forced her to reevaluate her plans for her career, both athletically and academically. Iannella ultimately decided to leave for the United States to further her education and soccer career. She wants to become a lawyer after her playing days are over. She held offers from Texas, Harvard, Vanderbilt and Hofstra, and chose the Longhorns this past summer.
“I was really apprehensive right up until the moment that I left,” Iannella said. “I think that the pros always outweighed the cons, and I just didn’t want to regret not trying it.”
Iannella made an impact right away in the offseason. Her teammates immediately took notice of her sedulous work ethic.
“The first day we do fitness tests, and she whooped all of us,” senior defender Isabelle Kerr said. “From that day on, she’s been a competitor and wanted to make our
Iannella has helped lead a defense that has only allowed seven goals through nine matches. Head coach Angela Kelly says Iannella’s ability to play different positions has separated her from the rest of her teammates.
“She has some versatility,” Kelly said. “Anytime as a coach you have a person with versatility, it’s a positive.”
Even now at Texas, Iannella hasn’t forgotten the journey that got her here. She remembers the hard work and sacrifice it took. She remembers those long car rides. But through it all, Iannella says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I practiced so much, and nothing has come easy in terms of my soccer career,” Iannella said. “But I think that I wouldn’t want to do it any other way because it’s made me the player that I am today.”