Buffs' Adams Making Most of Opportunity
Colorado defender Haileigh Adams and the Buffaloes' three other departing seniors' journey through college has almost reached its conclusion. The Buffs have three regular-season matches remaining this season, but for Adams, the path to get here has been a long and winding trip.
Adams, a Pasadena, Calif., native, played her high school soccer at Bishop Alemany. Adams was her league's Defensive Player of the Year in her sophomore year but tore her ACL in her junior season. In her senior year, she moved up to forward and scored 14 goals and totaled 10 assists on her way to being a First Team All-CIF selection.
But colleges across the country didn't seem to show much interest. Adams had just two offers to continue her soccer career.
"It was really last minute," Adams recalled. "I didn't get offered until my last month of high school. It was like in May. I was actually planning on going to community college. Next thing I know, I get an email in the last couple weeks of school and I'm like, 'Well, I'm going to Grambling.'"
Adams choose to start her career at Grambling State University in Grambling, La., picking the Tigers over Eastern Washington where her brother Vernon Jr. had stared at quarterback.
Moving to the south was an experience all in itself for Adams, who had only been as far as Texas to watch Vernon play at TCU after he transferred to Oregon to finish his playing career. It was also Adams' first time being away from her family. But she also credits the move for helping her grow.
"The biggest adjustment for me was just being by myself, being away from my family and having to learn to grow up and be responsible for my own things. I'm the baby of my family. I wasn't used to doing my own laundry doing any of that grown-up stuff."
Adams excelled at Grambling, starting 18 of 20 games her freshman year and earning Second Team SWAC honors. She was even better in 2018 as a sophomore, helping the Tigers complete 11 shutout victories and earning SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Just like her decision to attend Grambling came late in the game, so did her decision to transfer.
"I decided in like July of 2019," Adams remembered. 'It was super late. I love Grambling. I absolutely loved it and the program was fun. We were one of the top teams in the SWAC, but I felt like I couldn't become the player I wanted to be there. I feel like I needed to challenge myself more. I want to play after college, so my thought process was that I needed to move to a bigger school to get where I want to be."
Much like her brother, Adams chose to make the leap from a mid-major to a Power-5, and attend Colorado.
"He was really supportive," Adams said about her conversations with her brother. "He was like, 'Just do it. I did it. Might as well bet on yourself or no one else will."
Adams showed up in Boulder while the team was preparing for the 2019 season and at first, there were major concerns as to whether she was going to be able to play or not. Grambling State unsuccessfully tried to block Adam's transfer to CU, but while everything playing out, Adam's had to be sidelined.
"It was frustrating," Adams said of the situation. "It was sad to see that from that coach. I didn't think he would stop me from playing. I thought he was going to be supportive. It is what it is. I mean, I did decide [to transfer] super last minute so I don't blame him. At the same time maybe I should have communicated that a little better."
Adams debuted for CU in the Buffs' second match of the season against Boston U., playing in 32 minutes. She played 17 matches in her junior season, including two NCAA Tournament matches, setting the stage for a final run as a senior in 2020.
The Buffs were on-again-off-again to start the 2020 season, with questions of would the season even be played due to COVID concerns?
"That sucked," Adams admitted. "I was like, 'Dang it's my senior year. You never know, I might not play after this.' It just really sucked. I was so sad and was happy that we were able to come back."
The 2020 fall season got moved to the spring of 2021, giving Adams a final senior season, or so she thought.
The Buffs went into the final regular-season match of the season with an 8-5-1 record, looking to end the regular season with a win against Utah and then a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Adams had started CU's previous six matches, leading up the finale against Utah and had become a fixture on the Buffs' backline and seemed to be hitting her stride leading up to Senior Day.
Another late decision was made the week of the Utah game when head coach Danny Sanchez asked to speak with Adams towards the end of the week.
"I didn't know what I was going in there for," Adams joked. "I thought I might have gotten in trouble or something. It was crazy. I went into Danny's office and we had a conversation and we both thought it best that I come back for another year to get some more film on me, hopefully, to play after [college]. I was not expecting that, but it turned out to be a good conversation."
Adams and the Buffs beat Utah 2-1, with Adams' No. 3 painted on the field with the rest of the departing senior class.
Adams' teammates honored her at the start of this season, surprising her as one of the team's captains. But the season got off to a rough start when Adams had to leave the season-opener against Colorado College with an injury that would keep her out of CU's next four games.
"That was a rough time for me. It was definitely very tough. I was like, 'Why does this have to happen to me?' I just came back for my extra year so I could get that full experience. Then I get injured. It was tough, but I'm glad we got through it."
In her return, she scored her first career goal against Cal State Fullerton. Adams has started in 10 of her 12 matches this season and got an assist in CU's 3-2 overtime win against Oregon State on Senior Day.
With three regular-season games left in her senior season, there's no doubt Adams is going to leave it all on the field.
"I'm going to go all out. Really give it my all. You never know, this might be it [for me] so go hard every single game."
Colorado takes on Arizona State on Thursday (6 p.m. MT) on the Pac-12 Network. The Buffs will then close out the weekend in Tucson, battling Arizona on Sunday (1 p.m. MT)