Oct 20, 2017 11:07AM
● By Ashley Pape
By Audrey Sellers
Southlake Carroll freshman Alexis Missimo sports a lot of burnt orange these days. She’s a fan of the University of Texas, but the 14-year-old soccer player doesn’t just dream of being a Longhorn one day—she has already committed to UT. The summer before her eighth grade year, Alexis accepted a full soccer scholarship to play for Texas, making her the youngest women’s soccer commit in the sport’s history.
Alexis is often called a phenom and a prodigy, and there’s no denying she’s a force on the field. The young athlete, who plays for the Solar Chelsea club program, was recruited by every top D1 school in the country. She is also regarded as the No. 1 recruit for the Class of 2021 by TopDrawerSoccer.com, a site that covers college soccer and club soccer, and was a contender for the 2017 TopDrawerSoccer Player of the Year award, one of the most prestigious awards for youth players.
But if you look beyond the impres- sive offers, rankings and accomplish- ments, you’ll find a ponytailed girl in cleats who simply wants to play soccer. “I just love the game itself,” she says. “I love passing the ball through to create goals.”
Soccer isn’t only Alexis’ talent; it’s a passion that propels her to push limits, day in and day out.
A Rising Soccer Star
Alexis committed to playing at UT five years before the start of her college freshman year. In the sports world today, student-athletes often receive full scholarships before the usual teenage rites of passage, such as taking the SAT or getting a driver’s license. Coaches are eager to scout 13- and 14-year-old athletes to fill their future rosters.
Being recruited to play at Texas before eighth grade? Alexis chalks it up to her rock-solid work ethic. “I work really hard on and off the field,” she says. “It feels good to know my hard work paid off.”
It also helps that Alexis’ family has a stellar soccer pedigree. Her father, Derek Missimo, was a multiple All- America honoree representing the United States Youth National Team in the FIFA U17 World Cup. He also led the University of North Carolina in scoring for four consecutive years and is the university’s all-time leader in career points and goals. Alexis’ older sister, Gabriella (17), is a soccer powerhouse in her own right; she has also committed to play soccer for the University of Texas when she graduates from Carroll in 2019.
“My sister was a bonus to go to UT, but I also love the environment, culture and staff—especially [head coach] Angela Kelly,” Alexis says. “And I’m excited about just being on TV on the Longhorn Network!”
Like Gabriella, Alexis doesn’t play for the Lady Dragons, but has played select soccer for Solar since she was 10. (Regulations from the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy prevent players from participating in high school soccer.) Derek has coached for the Solar girls’ program since 2007 and over the years has helped more than 30 young athletes—including his own daughters—hit their D1 goals.
He noticed early on that Alexis, who began playing soccer at age four, had ability beyond her years. “When she played with her age group, she was more advanced than that. By age seven or eight, there was a definite difference,” Derek says.
Watching her big sister play sparked a fire in Alexis. If Gabriella learned something new, Alexis was right there learning, too. “Alexis wanted to see what the older kids were doing and replicate it,” says Derek. “She could keep up with the older kids; she loves to compete. I get more amazed each year because she has such a huge passion for soccer.”
Alexis’ combination of talent, hard work and pure love for the game has opened up a world of incredible experiences—and all before high school. Alexis plays midfielder for the U.S. Under-16 Girls’ National Team, and in May, she traveled with the team to represent the United States in Belgium. “It was cool to go overseas and know I was repre- senting my country,” says Alexis.
After competing in Belgium, Alexis returned to Southlake and then jetted to Europe again in August—this time to Lyon, France. She spent nearly two weeks training with coaches from the renowned Olympique Lyonnais, France’s top women’s professional team. Alexis was part of an invite-only group, with only 32 of the world’s best players invited to receive training and coaching at the legendary club. Some of the world’s most celebrated soccer stars have played for Olympique Lyonnais, including Alex Morgan, the American soccer player, Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion.
Alexis didn’t take the invitation or the training opportunity lightly. “I’m so excited to work,” she said just days before her trip. “It’s a great opportunity to play with a professional team.”
The young recruit is always watching and learning from other players, eager to elevate her own skills. She especially admires Kristine Lilly, a retired American soccer player who played in five FIFA Women’s World Cups and three Olympic Games. “I re- ally admire her,” says Alexis. “She was the best all-around player representing the U.S. for many years.”
Alexis knows that if she wants to join the ranks of the world’s best female athletes, she has to be receptive to feedback. In fact, learning to accept criticism was one of the first lessons from her dad and big sister.
“Gabriella taught Alexis early on not to be sensitive to criticism. She would say, ‘He’s trying to teach you a better way of doing this,’” Derek says.
As the girls’ dad and coach, Derek also taught the importance of ac- countability, punctuality and responsibility. “I taught them that every decision they make will impact their long-term goals,” he says. “Coaching is a unique bond I have with my girls. It has definitely enhanced our relationship.”
Derek wants for both of his daughters what all parents want: for their kids to be happy. “I want them to be secure in their goals and not let anything get in their way,” he says. “Girls have such wonderful opportunities nowadays. So many glass ceilings have been broken.”
A Future on the Field
Alexis lives life like many Dragon student-athletes. She attends class at Carroll High School (math is her favorite subject), and fits in homework, training and dinner before her usual 10 p.m. bedtime.
“Her schedule isn’t different from many athletes’ schedules,” Derek says. “What’s unique to her is how she can process it and have sustainability. She really loves soccer—it propels her to get through her studies.”
When imagining her future, Alexis has high aspirations but also remains remarkably grounded. “I want to be a pro soccer player,” she says, “but I know I need a good education.” She envisions going into business one day and maybe owning a restaurant.
With stars in her eyes and a soccer ball at her feet, Alexis is a girl who can conquer anything.