When she was four, Haley Berg’s father let her name the youth-league soccer team that he’d coach and she’d play on.
Berg went with the “Lady Longhorns,” which should have been a sign of things to come.
Berg would grow up as a fan of Texas’ Longhorns, and she had family members who attended the university. She also gave her commitment to UT’s soccer team while she was in the eighth grade, a decision that was chronicled in the New York Times.
Texas (12-1-2, 4-1-2 Big 12) travels to Baylor (10-3-2, 4-2-1) on Friday. UT is one of four Big 12 teams with only one loss in conference play. The freshman midfielder from Celina will appear in her 16th match as a Longhorn. A dream come true, right?
“Not even just due to us rooting for them,” Berg said. “Just fulfilling a dream of being happy at a college, I think that was mostly my dream. I’m beyond happy here.”
Berg has made an immediate impact at Texas. Only sophomore Cyera Hintzen has bettered Berg’s five goals and 12 points. Hintzen’s seven goals and 19 points lead the Big 12.
Three of Berg’s five goals have been game-winners. Set up by Hintzen, Berg scored her first-ever sudden-death strike in the overtime session of a 1-0 win at Kansas State on Oct. 15. Berg was also responsible to the deciding kicks in UT’s 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Arkansas-Little Rock and Iowa State.
For her efforts, Berg has twice been named the Big 12’s freshman of the week.
“She’s a special talent and we’ve been excited to get Haley Berg on the Forty Acres for the past four years,” Texas coach Angela Kelly said. “I think stepping into the college environment, she’s assimilated herself extremely well. When she’s coming in with this skill set with still a lot more to bring to the table, that’s kind of exciting for her and her career.”
Berg played only two years of high school soccer since Celina didn’t begin its varsity high school program until 2016. (Berg scored 105 goals in those two seasons). She’s hardly a novice in the sport, though.
She was spotted by Texas while playing on a club team with future UT teammates Hintzen, Atu Mshana and Maddie Dorsett. Berg spent middle school and high school with teams in the Elite Clubs National League, and she played at the 2016 Women’s International Cup with the U.S. Under-18 national team. Berg said club soccer was treated like “the main priority in our household,” and she even once saw a soccer therapist to help with her preparation for matches.
Berg tried out other sports like gymnastics, basketball and cross country. Those activities, however, would inevitably conflict with soccer, so “it’s really just been soccer.”
On the pitch, Berg isn’t hard to spot. In addition to wearing No. 2, she has always sported a Nike headband. Her headband of choice this season is a pink one given to her by her mother before her UT debut — which she scored 25 seconds into. She brushes her teeth before every match and has a semicolon tattooed on her left wrist. Another two semicolons have been etched onto her left cleat.
The semicolons are an ode to her older brother Chandler, who committed suicide when she was a high school sophomore. Her father has the same tattoo.
“The semicolon is instead of putting a period to stop a sentence or end a life, you put a semicolon, you keep going,” said Berg, who got the tattoo before the season started. “It’s just a reminder of my brother.”