Finding a college that is a great academic fit and provides the opportunity to continue playing the sport you love at the next level isn’t always an easy task for high school student-athletes. Fortunately for Anya Ranaraja, she found her perfect match. On Thursday, Feb. 21, the senior soccer player, and one of this year’s team captains, was cheered on by family, teammates, friends and coaches as she officially committed to joining the Rhodes College Lynx in Memphis, Tenn., this fall.
According to Anya, who is also a member of the Belles basketball team, she starting kicking a ball as soon as she was able to walk and joined her first team, the Purple Dragons, at age 4. “We were the only all-girls team at the time, but that didn’t stop us from being undefeated the majority of our seasons,” she joked.
Anya has since competed at the club level with Arkansas United, formerly Little Rock Futbol Club, for the past 10 years, and began playing for the Soccer Belles her freshmen year. Her hard work leading up to high school earned her a spot on the varsity team that year as well as All Conference Team honors. As a sophomore, she was named to the All State Team after helping the Belles finish in second place in their conference. Though an injury prevented Anya from playing in 2018, she remained a dedicated and supportive teammate. This commitment earned her the Mary Drake Award, which honors a Mount St. Mary student-athlete each year for her perseverance in being a leader, an unselfish team player, encouraging and optimistic.
The fact that Anya was recruited by colleges comes as no surprise to MSM soccer coach Stephanie Boccarossa. “Anya is an absolute pleasure to watch and to coach,” she said “From the moment she steps on the field, she sets the pace of the game through her attitude, skill and speed of play. Beyond her incredible athletic ability, her passion, work ethic and love of the game are unmatched. She is a one-of-a-kind athlete.”
Anya, who admits to wanting to be a doctor for as long as she’s been playing soccer, plans on majoring in biology and attending medical school after college. She said Rhodes met all the requirements she was seeking, including a strong pre-med program, wonderful internship and study abroad opportunities, and a successful soccer program that fit her style of play. “In my college search, I had to make sure that the college I chose was the perfect fit academically as well as for soccer, and Rhodes does both,” she said. “I am so excited about the opportunities I am going to have and the experiences to come. I have seen the relationships and team unity of the Rhodes soccer team, and I can wait to be a part of that!”
As for the ways Mount St. Mary has prepared her for success after graduation, Anya credits the excellent academic opportunities and her involvement with Belles athletics. “MSM has taught me how to think analytically through the AP courses I have taken,” she said. “Mount has also taught me how to manage my time between sports and classes, as well as given me leadership skills and experience working with others as a team. I feel beyond prepared for my years at Rhodes.”
Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.