UCLA’s Big Fish on Campus

Some NCAA athletes take time to adjust to the speed and talent of the collegiate game. Others hit the ground running like UCLA’s Mia Fishel. In her freshman season back in 2019, Fishel led a very talented team in scoring with 14 goals, including six game-winners, as the Bruins made a run to the College Cup semifinals. “I had success with the national team in 2019 that created a momentum of positive and confident feelings going into my freshman year of UCLA,” Fishel told BGN about her early success. “I felt ready to go as soon as I hit UCLA, and it showed with early success in scoring goals. As I began to lead in goals, the confidence really kicked in, which allowed me to play with more freedom as (the) season continued to the College Cup.”

2020, despite all the obvious challenges it presented, was also a big year for Mia as she was called into camp with the USWNT first team. “My dream is to be on the full women’s national team, and getting that call up was a big step towards making my dream come true,” Fishel explained. “I’ve been working really hard since a very young age to get where I’m at, so it was definitely rewarding getting that invite.”

With that call-up, she was able to learn from the best women’s soccer team on the planet. “I got a lot of good advice by observing the talented players around me on and off the field,” she recalled. “I was in camp for a reason, and I wanted to show them what I can do before asking players/coaches for advice.”

“The main advice that I got was to continue to work hard and work on the little details of my game because I’m not far off from consistently being called into camp. The best feeling is knowing where you are compared to the top, and that’s the knowledge that I received after camp.”

Fishel is a major part of an exciting generation of up and coming players in the USWNT system like Brianna Pinto, Ashley Sanchez, Trinity Rodman, etc. What is it like competing with those talented players and potentially representing the first team someday alongside them? “I’m always having fun competing with the best because I can take their strengths and potentially add it to my skill set to become a better player,” she answered. “Another benefit is that like-minded players love to win, so using our unique strengths as one helps with winning big games for our country which is always an honor. I’m really excited for the future, and potentially playing with the best of the best soon.”

When asked if there were any players that she modeled her game after, Mia responded, “I honestly never really looked up or imitated to any soccer players growing up. I just wanted to be the best player in the world. I’ve probably said that to my parents over a hundred times as a kid, and that was my only focus. Why look up to others when I can be my own unique player.”

“I loved Ronaldinho because of his skill, and how much fun he made soccer look, which I always found intriguing. Many people say that it takes work to be a great soccer player, but if you’re having fun then it’s not work. I still, today, make sure I’m having fun while playing soccer because I believe that is why I have been so successful in this sport.”

With the 2021 NCAA season kicking off last month, Fishel didn’t waste time building on her 2019 success with the Bruins. She has scored two goals in UCLA’s 4-0 start to the spring. She said, “I’m honestly very excited to just be playing the sport I love again, and with a team that feels like family. I’m always looking to improve my game, and with the full national team call-up, I was able to absorb a lot of beneficial information that can escalate my game to the next level.”

“So I’m also grateful to be back with UCLA, so I can work on my game to get back in camp as soon as I can. My personal goal this year is to stay healthy throughout the season and continue to learn from every game and training to be better than I was in the beginning of the season. I obviously want to contribute to helping this team win a national championship in any way, but mostly by scoring goals to get my team on the board.”

When she’s not scoring goals for her school or her country, you can find Mia scoring a big catch out on the water. “My dad got me into fishing at a very young age, and I fell in love with this hobby because catching fish is fun,” she said. “Nature and animals have always been something I’ve appreciated on this earth, and being able to respect it while catching fish is a humbling moment. My favorite spot to fish is probably deep sea because that’s where the fish pull with a lot of force!”

“I love a challenge, so it’s the best trying to reel in a fish that is giving it their all in their wild environment. However, it doesn’t matter where I fish when I’m with my dad. It’s always been a bonding thing for me and my dad, and he’s a very special person to me, so I love to go whenever I can with him.”

Obviously, a big part of fishing is getting to tell fishing stories afterwards. “My favorite fishing story was when I caught my first fish while deep sea fishing,” she said. “It took me 20 minutes to reel it in, and when I caught the fish it was the biggest California yellowtail that anyone has caught on the boat. Mind you, I was fishing with two of the best fisherman that I know who have fished their whole life. It was around 35 pounds!”

Tomorrow, Mia will look to help the #3-ranked Bruins reel in a fifth straight win to start the season. They face face Oregon at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in Los Angeles with kick-off set for 5:30 PM Pacific.

Carson A Merk

Reporting live from Sin City, I have covered both RGVFC and Las Vegas Lights FC since their inceptions. I also write profiles to highlight players from the NCAA to USL to NWSL and everywhere in between.