Hannah Brien is living proof that sometimes in life the first option is, in fact, the best option.
Brien, a Houma native who is a graduated senior soccer player at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, signed with the University of Tampa recently — the spot she will continue her playing career this coming fall.
Brien said she chose Tampa after receiving interest from several schools around the Southeast and toward the East Coast.
But Tampa was the first school that showed interest and ultimately, it was the one that felt the most like home.
She said she fell in love with the school after a visit and has had it in her mind since her junior season that she wanted to play for the four-year school that competes in the Sunshine State Conference.
“The University of Tampa was the first school that reached out to me when I was a sophomore,” Brien said. “I was unsure at first exactly what I wanted, so I put them on hold. I went on other unofficial visits from places all throughout the East Coast and I liked the schools, but they were all missing something. I went to look at Tampa the middle of my junior year and automatically fell in love with it. I wanted to commit right at that moment.”
For Brien, her path to Tampa was paved through on-field excellent on the pitch.
Brien has been a center back throughout her career — one of the top players at IMG Academy throughout the past several seasons.
Collegiate interest started early in her prep career with Tampa getting the first look. But in her junior and senior seasons, more schools came in, including a Big 12 program and a program in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Brien said she resisted the urge to commit to Tampa in her junior season because she wanted to give other schools the opportunity to see her before making a final decision.
But before long, she realized that it was time to go with her gut, adding that she loved the entire vibe of the city she will soon call home.
“I think the main thing that led me to my decision was the location,” Brien said. “Growing up in Houma, not much is around city-wise. In Tampa, the campus is located in the heart of the city and I love that. Everything is walking distance to each other and that is something I completely fell in love with. The facilities there also completely shocked me. The athletic facilities are top of the top. Actually, after touring many schools, Tampa’s facilities were at the top.”
Brien said she also felt a connection to Tampa’s coaches and players — which helped her decision.
The team posted a 7-6-4 record last season, including a 5-3-2 mark in conference play.
Brien said she hopes to compete for a starting spot as a freshman — a factor which contributed to her decision.
At some of the other programs, she’d have likely had to wait until her junior or senior seasons before seeing the pitch in a prominent role.
“I know people say you aren’t supposed to go (to a school) for their coach, but the coaching staff (at Tampa) really is something unbelievable,” Brien said. “They are so supportive of the girls and really wanting the best for them, as well as being so easy to talk with.”
The collegiate season is right around the corner and Brien said she’s busy doing spin class, weight lifting, fitness and soccer workouts to try and improve her conditioning so that she’s ready for the challenges that are coming in the fall.
But aside from the hard work, Brien said she’s just grateful to be given the chance to keep playing, adding that she had no clue that collegiate soccer would be in the cards when she made the decision to play the sport as a child 7 years ago.
“It really does feel great to be able to have the opportunity to play at the next level,” Brien said. “It shows that all the long hours and hard work — both on and off the field — have been completely worth it. I am excited to be able to go in as a freshman and work hard and show that I belong on that field.”