Upon first glance, Marbel Santana's 5-foot-1-inch frame may not give passersby the impression she’s a rough n’ tough soccer player, but she is. Santana, a Brookhaven College sophomore, is a soccer Division III All-American and the 2012-2013 Metro Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Originally from Iguala, Mexico, Marbel says soccer is in her blood. While growing up, her father would often encourage her to practice with her two brothers.
The soccer star initially auditioned for her first competitive soccer stint at North Dallas High School out of curiosity: she wanted to know how well she’d perform. The previous, casual experience she had playing with her family served her well, and she made the team and began to count her talents.
Her speed and ball control helped her excel from the start. Her first goal-scoring game was exhilarating, and she was hooked soon after.
“Your first goal is, like, oh my gosh. So after the first goal, I was like, ‘I’m so in,’” she said.
Marbel began at the forward position and was later moved to midfield. Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury her senior year that required surgery, and it was months before she fully recovered.
After graduating high school and enrolling at Brookhaven College, Marbel felt ready to play again, and just in time for soccer tryouts. She made the team and picked up where she left off in high school as a midfielder. In her second year, she transitioned to defense at the recommendation of Coach Dayna Davenport.
In response to her height, Marbel can recall instances when opponents—before seeing her play—would assume she would be easy to overtake and outrun. When the time came for her to perform, however, Marbel shattered preconceptions. Her speed and resilience frequently caught opponents off guard.
“I would try to bump someone, then I would bounce back,” she said. “I would never stop trying. Even though I’m really small, somehow it works.”
Student athletes can only play a team sport at their school for two years within the Metro Athletic Conference, so this past season was Marbel’s final year. She finished strong, scoring two goals during the season, which is typically not expected of defensive players.
The recognition she received in the NJCAA’s publication “NJCAA Review” as a soccer All-American and as Defensive Player of the Year came as a complete surprise to Marbel.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “I didn’t even know I was on it until one of my teammates texted me saying, ‘Congrats, Bell!’”
Also an academic star, Marbel has a 3.55 grade point average, which places her on the Metro Athletic Conference Academic Achievement Awards list. In fact, Marbel initially thought her honors were related to schoolwork. She was humbled when she discovered they were instead related to her soccer performance, she said.
“I never thought I was going to get it. There are a lot of other players that are better than me. That was my first year playing defense,” she said.
Although Marbel’s career as a Lady Bear is finished, she wants to continue to play at the college level. The athlete plans to transfer to the University of North Texas and try out for its soccer team. She would also like to pursue the education field and coach high school soccer at her former school, in hopes of giving something back to the place where it all started.
Marbel’s story is a great example of student success through hard work and determination, and we are all reminded that there is more than meets the eye. We wish her the best of luck in the coming years!