As a freshman for New Mexico State University, Xitlaly Hernandez appeared in five matches with one start back in 2019 before a significant knee injury ended her season. Now in her sophomore campaign, she’s started all eight matches for the Aggies. “I was really eager to get back to it, so I was working really hard towards not only getting back to just playing but also being a huge contributor to our team’s success,” Hernandez told BGN.
“Having been able to earn a starting spot and knowing that my coaches have confidence in me, that really helps to push and play harder, not only physically but their confidence in me has really played a huge role on the mental side part of mine by giving me that confidence to know I am capable of doing that and more.”
With her increased opportunities in 2021, Hernandez has scored four goals in those eight appearances. She explained, “We have not been a scoring team in the past and I feel like scoring these 4 goals early in the season was important and an eye-opener to prove not only to myself but as a team, that we are capable of scoring.”
“I feel like my team was a huge part of this because they too just like my coaches give me that confidence and believe that I’m capable of not only helping my team on the defensive side but also that, executing on the offensive side is just as important and part of the privilege that I get, playing as a midfielder.”
Boosted by Xitlaly’s four goals, New Mexico State defeated Chicago State in back-to-back matches for their first wins of the season. Their other victory came last time out against Grand Canyon University, pushing their record up to 3-5. “We have improved so much as a team not only since last season but even from just the beginning of this season,” Hernandez said. “Coming from a huge win on Saturday against GCU, I feel that the energy and positive mindset that we brought to that match were key factors in our victory.”
2H | 23:32 | 6-1
Hat trick alert ⚽️⚽️⚽️
— NM State Soccer (@NMStateWSOC) February 22, 2021
Discussing how they can keep that momentum going down the stretch, Xitlaly said, “Moving forward I believe that we will need to keep that same grit and mentality of knowing that we can and we will win. This will also come from making sure we finish the chances we get and look to keep the ball and play as a team.”
While they say a team is like your family, that rings especially true for Xitlaly and one of her teammates: Jody Hernandez, her older sister. “I’ve been playing with Jody since we were younger and have played with her throughout club and even part of high school,” the younger Hernandez explained. “Still, it doesn’t get old and it only gets more enjoyable and exciting to see that we understand each other not only on the field but also outside of it, which is why she was one of the main factors in my decision to come to NMSU.”
“Having my best friend, sister, and teammate all in one is a great feeling. Especially to see that our parents and family are able to see my sister and I playing the sport we love, together at a collegiate level, it doesn’t get better than that. Though, with her injury that occurred early in the season, she has had to sit out. It’s a bummer to not see her starting with me, Yet, we are hoping for a speedy recovery so we can get back to playing together again.”
Obviously, both Hernandez sisters are talented soccer players. But, what are three things that they do better than the other off the pitch? “Outside of soccer, Jody is better at just being the older sister in general,” Xitlaly said. “Though, I would say I am better on the school side of things, being nicer and saving money. While Jody is the better driver, listener and I would say is more responsible.”
Xitlaly and the New Mexico State Aggies return to action tomorrow afternoon to face UTRGV (live on the WAC Digital Network at 2 PM).