‘Perfectionist’: Rodrigues tackles the student-athlete balance
By Jake Tiger
On Aug. 25, the final whistle sounded and Rider women’s soccer crescendoed into a chorus of jubilation, as its massive group-hug slowly became a chaotic mosh pit of cranberry. The Broncs had just beaten Villanova for the first time in the team’s history, thanks to the boot of forward Makenzie Rodrigues, who punched in the eventual game-winner in the 51st minute.
Rodrigues, a senior captain and focal point of Rider’s offense, is a valve in the heart of her team, playing a more vital role than ever in her already illustrious career as a Bronc.
However, while her play on the field is invigorating, Rodrigues’ work ethic and unwavering commitment to the double life of a student-athlete is just as worthy of a highlight reel.
Rodrigues hits her goals on and off the field.
“I think I’ve always been kind of a perfectionist,” said Rodrigues. “I just wanna succeed in whatever I do, which can be a blessing and a curse.”
From the outset of her freshman campaign, Rodrigues made it clear she would be a problem for years to come.
In her first season, the Seattle native contributed four goals in 17 starts – good for second on the team – earning her a spot on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) All-Rookie Team, and since then, the ever-tenacious Rodrigues has improved significantly each and every year.
“I think as a rookie coming in, I worked hard and I’ve never stopped working hard each year,” said Rodrigues. “You can expect to remain a starting player, but that’s not how you keep a starting position.”
As a sophomore, Rodrigues was even more productive despite only playing in six of nine games, finishing the year first in the MAAC in goals and shots with six and 25 respectively.
The star forward scored on a staggering 24% of her shots in the shortened 2020 season, including a two-game stretch in which she punched in four goals on just nine shot attempts.
“[Rodrigues] has had to work hard to get where she is and that is what separates her,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome. “She has the work ethic and desire to improve her game. … It’s been a pleasure to coach her.”
While the star forward dominated the pitch as an undergraduate, Rodrigues felt as though her resume and presence off the field were lacking in comparison, despite being a political science major with a double minor in French and legal studies.
“I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in just being an athlete and a student,” said Rodrigues. “My freshman year, I wasn’t really in any clubs and I felt a little disconnected from other people on campus.”
Rodrigues has since become quite the recurring figure at Rider, as the self-proclaimed perfectionist sought to concoct the ideal student-athlete balance. Her current role as president of Rider’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has even created connections with students from other campuses.
The two-time MAAC All-Academic Team honoree is also a Student Government Association senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a writing tutor, as she strives to make the most of a potentially lucrative college experience.
“It is what you make of it,” Rodrigues said of her time as a Bronc. “I just think those experiences have made me a better person and a better player. Taking advantage of what’s already there is really important.”
Upon graduating, Rodrigues plans to pursue a career in communications and political science, but only if professional soccer is not in the cards.
“I’m definitely looking to play overseas after I graduate,” said Rodrigues. “I think there are opportunities there and I’d be open to going to a bunch of different places.”
With her refined play in the non-conference portion of the schedule, a post-Rider career seems more and more likely.
On Aug. 28, just three days after the win against Villanova, Rodrigues followed up her historic goal with her first career hat trick, leading the Broncs to a 6-0 suffocation of Delaware State.
“It’s been great so far in non-conference play,” said Rodrigues. “It’s been a big difference from last year because last year we didn’t win any away games. It’s mainly the same group of girls, we’ve just kept that belief in ourselves and it’s already starting to pay off.”
Through seven games, Rodrigues’ calculated aggression has placed her second in the MAAC in goals, shots and shots on goal, but in what will likely be her final season as a Bronc, Rodrigues has her sights set on a storybook ending.
“I definitely have set [winning the MAAC] as a goal this year since it might be my last year,” said Rodrigues. “There’s definitely pressure there… but I think it’s a good pressure.”
Outside photos provided by Makenzie Rodrigues and center photo provided by Fidele Jules/Rider Athletics.