For Nevada defender Lauren Muff, suiting up and playing for the Wolf Pack wasn’t the first time she went to Mackay Stadium.

“When I was growing up, I came to a couple football, a couple baseball games, some soccer games here and there, every once in a while we’d make the trip over,” said Muff, a former standout at Galena High. “One of my first memories of a game when I came here was when I was a ball girl. I tossed the ball to a girl that was playing and she had another one coming at her, somehow she managed to flick it with her back heel and get the one ball back to me while catching the other one at the same time, and I just thought it was a cool thing. I was, like, ‘She’s good,’ and I was just tossing her the ball for a throw in.”

From that point forward, the Reno native knew she wanted to play college soccer. Muff helped guide the Grizzlies to three consecutive Sierra League titles from 2017-19 and two Northern 4A championships in 2018 and 2019. Her sophomore year, she was named to Nevada’s all-state soccer team and was the Sierra League’s Defensive Player of the Year from 2018-19. During her time at Galena, she totaled 37 goals and 94 points, playing more than 2,000 minutes during 71 matches. When Muff first drew interest from Nevada head coach Erin Otagaki and her staff, she didn’t think too much about where she wanted to go. When she received a scholarship offer from Nevada, the rest was history.

“As soon as I had an offer from Nevada, I was like, ‘There’s nowhere else I want to be,'” Muff said. “I love Reno. I love Tahoe. I love the area. I love the community support.”

With former high school teammates playing at TMCC and LTCC, she’s the lone player on this year’s roster to represent a Northern Nevada high school.

“It’s pretty cool,” Muff said. “I think that as selective as it seems, it’s cool to be one to represent for the town of Reno. I’m glad I was able to grow up and play with all these girls and then be the one that was selected for the team.”

Muff joined Nevada’s roster primarily as a midfielder until Otagaki transitioned her into an outside back early in college.

“When I first came in, the first thing you have to adapt to is speed of play, the physicality, things like that,” Muff said. “I wasn’t typically an outside back when I came in from club and high school. Now, I definitely think I’m growing in the position and starting to understand and do the things the coaches are asking me to do. I think it’s helping me to follow the game plan and just try to strive to do the things they’re asking every day to see if I can grow over the period of a season.”

She added that while it’s been a challenge moving to a new position, it’s been rewarding at the same time.

“The position I’m in, you get a little bit of both,” Muff said. “So you get to defend hard, but you also get to go forward. So it’s rewarding in that when I’m learning how to defend the ball better, we’re not going to get scored on as much. But I also have the ability to go up and help in the attack.”

Now following in the footsteps of the Wolf Pack players she once watched at Mackay Stadium as a ball girl, she hopes to be the role model they once were for her.

“They come and watch, and you might do a simple thing, but to them it’s something they might be trying to learn themselves,” Muff said.

You can watch the feature on Muff on Nevada Sports Net.

Article originally published on Nevada Sports Net by Shannon Kelly.