After sundown, when ballpark lights illuminate the soccer pitch at Mehl Park, I can see a faraway patch of green and, sometimes, hear the distant voices. The view from my patio is so peaceful; it is like a scene from a movie.
I always wonder: Who are these soccer people? What is their story? What am I missing?
As it turns out, I was missing a lot. I was missing the story of Holly and Asia Suarez.
Asia Suarez is a senior at Buena High School, a 4.3 student - "I'm No. 3 in my class," she says with a smile - who sits in the back seat of her mother's car, doing homework, holding a portable light on the long, dark drive back to Sierra Vista.
Holly and Asia make the drive two or three times a week, sometimes more.
While Asia practices with Tucson Soccer Academy '95 Girls Red - a club team ranked No. 14 nationally - Holly, an instructor at Cochise College and the Fort Huachuca Learning Center, is at work in her portable office: her car.
"If she doesn't get all of her work done while I'm practicing," says Asia, "she sometimes stays up until 2 a.m., after we get back to Sierra Vista."
Then they laugh simultaneously: "And we still have to get up at 5 o'clock the next morning."
This is a modern American mother and daughter, a soccer mom among soccer moms, going the extra mile (actually, the extra 90 miles) to give her daughter the opportunity to pursue soccer at the highest club level in this country.
Holly's husband and Asia's dad, Philip Suarez, an intelligence officer at Fort Huachuca, is on assignment in Afghanistan. So they make it up as they go, waiting for officer Suarez to return next month.
When Asia's soccer skills became notable, she wanted two things: to play at an advanced training center, such as the Tucson Soccer Academy, and to earn a college soccer scholarship.
"We had no choice but to start driving to Tucson," says Holly. "I asked Asia, 'How serious are you about soccer? Are you willing to drive to Tucson three days a week and get home about midnight?'"
Asia interrupts. "This has been a long journey, and sometimes I think, 'I don't want to drive to Tucson again today,' but it is always worth it. I get better when I come here."
There is more to this than soccer and a flawless GPA. Asia is also the student manager of the Buena High School football team; she is secretary of the school's National Honor Society; she is involved in the Robotics club and the Key club. She also goes to weight-training classes twice a week."
"I have an alarm clock that tells me how many hours I have until it will ring," she says. "It always seems to say six hours, or, worse five."
Last month, when TSA's 95 Girls Red team had a break, Holly and Asia flew to New York to investigate college scholarship opportunities. Asia had already heard from Oregon and Wyoming but wanted to see what smaller, more academic-based schools offered. They went to Massachusetts to visit Brandeis University, and to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in upstate New York.
But once she visited Long Island University, she accepted an academic/soccer scholarship to play for the LIU Blackbirds.
Amazingly, Asia is one of 14 players of coach Amy Garelick's 95 Girls Red team to accept Division I soccer scholarships this year.
No wonder they are state champions.
"Asia called us and came to our open tryout in May of 2011," says Garelick. "Traveling from Sierra Vista to be part of our team is extremely unusual, but Asia is unusually dedicated, too. She made the commitment to stick with it.
"She's the complete package; an all-around good kid."
Over Labor Day weekend, for example, Asia accompanied her TSA club team to San Clemente, Calif., for a two-day tournament. When they drove back to Tucson on Monday, they went almost directly to Mehl Park to practice.
So much for hitting the sack early.
"We have so many talented girls on this team that you have to work hard for your spot every day," says Asia. "I don't have trouble getting motivated: I tell myself, you didn't drive all this way for nothing."
Holly says, "Sometime this gets a little crazy, but as long as Asia keeps up her grades, we'll support her. Any parent would do this for their daughter."
When Asia arrives at LIU next summer, she plans to major in both finance and economics. The Blackbirds play a national schedule - this year they face Colorado, Iowa, Syracuse and Denver, in addition to regional conference rivals - but there will be no more late-night rides down Interstate 10.
"Sometimes this gets a little insane," she says. "But it's a good insane."
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org