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23. Something Special | Soccer, She Wrote

23. Something Special | Soccer, She Wrote

Mariah Lee
Mariah Lee and Jenna Holtz - Forty One Magazine - Soccer She Wrote

“What do you think of the girl in the neon shirt?” 

My Washington Premier Football Club coach asked me at the end of our team’s two-day tryout for the upcoming 2009/2010 season. Having not paid the girl much attention, I shrugged and replied, “Nothing special.

Thank goodness my coach didn’t listen to the likes of a twelve-year-old. The girl in the neon shirt turned out to be one of the best players on our team, and now – nearly 15 years later– we’re playing together on one of Australia’s top professional teams. That girl was Jenna Holtz.  

Mariah Lee and Jenna Holtz playing youth soccer
Mariah and Jenna playing for Washington Premier F.C. as youth

Jenna aka “Holtzy” and I played alongside one another from 8th grade until we graduated high school. Holtzy and I were like Shaq and Kobe (minus the fallout). She was an attacking midfielder and I was a forward. She’d play me perfectly timed through balls to set me up to score. I’d blow by my defenders and cut it back for her to slot in. We would tear through teams. We won a state championship together. We beat the defending national champions together. We were named to the best of the Elite Club National League together. 

Mariah Lee and Jenna Holtz with teammates at a soccer match
Mariah and Jenna with club teammates watching Stanford in the 2011 NCAA College Cup

Holtzy and I were recruited by colleges all over the nation starting our sophomore year. Coaches would line the sidelines of our games and invite us to unofficial campus visits. Since I was a little girl I had dreamt of attending Stanford University purely because of its academic prestige, ignorant of its athletic superiority. I remember learning that colleges offer women’s soccer scholarships while watching Bend It Like Beckham when Keira Knightley’s character was recruited to play for Santa Clara. Later on, I found out that Stanford was a soccer powerhouse and after I saw them play in the Final Four of the NCAA tournament it was a done deal. I was going there

Jenna, however, did choose to attend Santa Clara. We went from teammates in Washington to rivals in The Bay. Santa Clara was Stanford’s

biggest rival and every year we’d face them in The Battle of The Bay during preseason, and some years, again in the NCAA tournament. We went 3-2 against the Broncos over my Stanford career. One of the losses was especially memorable.

Mariah Lee and Jenna holtz together after sweet sixteen matchup
Jenna celebrating her 2016 NCAA Sweet Sixteen win with Santa Clara over No. 1 Stanford

It was the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament and we were up against our “Little Sisters” from across the pond. In this tournament, Golden Goal is in effect, which means that if a team scores in overtime it’s game over. We were in double-OT with minutes left on the scoreboard and Jenna Holtz scored the game-winner, upsetting us historically early. (I was hurt that season so I always say she didn’t score the game-winner against ME.) 

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Growing up, I never thought I’d be a professional soccer player. I didn’t know it was a possibility. I only saw women’s soccer during the World Cup and the Olympics. When the NWSL launched while I was in high school the thought of playing after college entered my mind. Playing with Jenna again became an idea after we both began our professional journey post-receiving master’s degrees. At one point we were both on the hunt for a new team and I was agentless. Holtz gave me her agent’s number and he took me on as a client as well. After a month or so he said a Spanish team was interested in the both of us. We were hyped. But then a month went by and things weren’t moving forward. Then another month. At that point, we lost hope. 

I went on to Celtic, FC Nordsjaelland, and Sporting Huelva; Jenna to OL Reign and Cacereño Femenino. Then this summer we were both in search of a team and Jenna got connected with Adelaide United. They said they needed a forward, I sent my profile, and this time the club followed through with us both. 

It didn’t hit me until Jenna picked me up from Adelaide Airport that we were actually getting to play together again. And not only play, but live together as well. Relationships off of the field can make or break your time abroad.

Mariah and Jenna unveiled at Adelaide United | Photo Credit: Adelaide United FC

Personally, it has broken my time twice. Already my time with Jenna has been amazing. We go on adventures together, cook together, kill spiders together. On the field, we picked up right where we left off. In our first match, Jenna sauced up her defender in the box and drew a PK. I stepped up to the spot and blasted it home. Me and the girl in the neon shirt are really embarking on something special. 

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