Baylor soccer player Aline De Lima is like a point guard on a basketball team with her eyes scanning the field as she moves closer to the goal and considers her options.
She can attack the goal with a burst of speed or thread a pass between defenders to a teammate to set up a score. She can do both with equal skill with her quick feet and active mind.
“Her ability to read the game as it’s going a million miles an hour around her makes her a special player,” said Baylor coach Paul Jobson. “There are players who can do that but don’t have the technical ability with the ball that goes along with it. She’s got pinpoint accuracy on passes and shots.”
De Lima was at her best in the Bears’ three-game sweep in the Big 12 tournament that positioned them to host Friday’s first-round NCAA tournament game against Rice at 5 p.m. at Betty Lou Mays Field.
She set up Julie James with the winning goal in overtime in Baylor’s 2-1 win over No. 18 Texas in the Big 12 tournament opener on Nov. 1 in Kansas City. De Lima came back two days later to score a pair of goals and dish out an assist in a 3-0 win over top-seeded Oklahoma State.
In Sunday’s championship game, De Lima fired perfect passes to set up both Baylor goals in a 2-1 overtime win over TCU to clinch the Bears’ second Big 12 tournament title and qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. De Lima was an easy choice as the Big 12 tournament’s outstanding offensive player.
With her first chance to play in the NCAA tournament, De Lima hopes to extend her senior year as long as possible.
“We kind of thought Texas (on Oct. 20) would be our last game at home, and thank God we’re back home one more time at Betty Lou,” De Lima said. “I’m really excited we can keep playing. It doesn’t matter the opponent, we just need to keep doing what we’re doing. I want to go as far as we can go.”
De Lima is Baylor’s top scorer this year with six goals and seven assists, and she appreciates every minute she’s on the field. It’s been a long and winding journey to become the all-Big 12 player she is today.
Growing up in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, De Lima loved soccer since she began playing when she was 7. Soccer is the major sport in Brazil and she couldn’t get enough of it. She developed her skills to such a high level that she could have played for most NCAA Division I teams.
With Portugese being the dominant language in Brazil, De Lima’s English language skills weren’t developed enough that she could qualify to play for a four-year school directly out of Escola Padre High School. Her best option was to play junior college soccer, so she signed with Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming.
De Lima enjoyed a good freshman season as she collected 10 goals and four assists in 17 matches, and also worked on improving her English.
“I didn’t speak English growing up, but I learned it when I got here (to the United States),” De Lima said. “I had some help from friends while I was there (in Wyoming), especially a guy from Mozambique who was fluent in English. He helped me a lot.”
Since she wasn’t on full scholarship, De Lima said her family couldn’t afford for her to return to Northwest College for her sophomore season. She spent the next year back in Brazil, training with a former coach and improving her skills.
She returned to the United States in 2015 to play for Monroe College, a junior college women’s soccer power in New Rochelle, N.Y. De Lima delivered a remarkable season as she scored 23 goals in 17 games to earn All-America honors.
Jobson saw a lot of potential in De Lima because of her all-around skills. When she visited Baylor, she knew it was where she wanted to be because of its Christian atmosphere.
“The reason I came to Baylor was to find the Lord again,” De Lima said. “My faith is a real important piece of my entire life. Two years ago I wasn’t that deep with God, and I wanted to find a place that would help me grow with my faith and having people around me that would help bring me close to him, and that’s why I chose Baylor.”
Eager to finally play Division I soccer, De Lima was hit with a huge setback when she injured her knee during the summer of 2016 and was limited to 14 matches as a junior. Despite playing with a knee brace, she ranked second on the team with four goals.
“I had an MCL injury at the end of July, and had to use the brace, so I didn’t play that much last year,” De Lima said. “You come with expectations and I was getting rolling and then the injury came. But everything happens for a reason, and God knows what he’s doing.”
Everything has fallen into place for De Lima this season as she’s proven to be one of the best players in the Big 12. She constantly amazes her teammates with her footwork and instincts for the game.
“On the field she obviously stands out,” said Baylor midfielder Delanie Davis. “She’s very technical and leads the midfield, and goes both ways on offense and defense. She’s so creative with the ball, and that makes her an outstanding player. She can read the game with the best of them.”
De Lima not only impresses her teammates and coaches with her skills but also with her work ethic and humble nature. Before the Big 12 tournament championship game against TCU, she called a team meeting to make sure everybody had the right perspective.
“She said ‘Hey everyone, we’ve got to fix our eyes on something bigger than just the soccer game,’” Davis said. “She reminded us to refocus and look to the bigger picture and not just human desires like rings and trophies. She said to look past that and give this game up to the Lord.”
When the Baylor soccer team returned to Waco from the tournament in Kansas City, De Lima reminded Jobson again why she’s so respected on the team.
“She has every right to be a prima donna, but she’s one of the hardest working members of the team,” Jobson said. “We were on the bus on the way back from DFW (airport), we’re about 15 minutes out and she’s walking up the aisle picking up trash. She’s a humble kid and works extremely hard and leads by example.”
De Lima hopes to play professional soccer after graduating from Baylor next May with a degree in integrated studies. Texas has become like a second home for this Brazil native.
“If I could stay around Texas that would be awesome because I love this place and this family,” De Lima said. “People are kind and have welcomed me. It’s an awesome place to be and I love the family I got to be part of here.”