Dollie Garcia fidgeted in her bed, sniffled and moved again while motioning to the door. The smell of an apple was bothering her.
Freshman forward Lauren Prater, an 8-year-old at the time, nodded and disposed of the apple, then liberally applied sanitizer on both hands. Garcia grunted, wanting company, and Prater leaned in to caress her grandmother’s hands.
“Don’t settle for anything,” Garcia said, her voice cracking.
Garcia battled Stage 4 breast cancer for two years before entering remission in 2005. Her grandmother’s bout with cancer encouraged Prater to pursue a Division I scholarship.
“It was really hard seeing her get through cancer because she didn’t look very good sometimes,” Prater said. “She didn’t ever show that she was hurting. She didn’t want any extra negative energy—she’s such a strong person. She didn’t want me to settle for anything less than perfect.”
The Arlington native did not want to settle for playing soccer at a Division II or Division III university, and was inspired to work hard to become better at her sport.
“My whole life has literally revolved around soccer,” Prater said. “It’s a big part of our family.”
Prater made the Martin High School varsity team her freshman year. Martin reached the 5-A Regional Qualifiers each year during her tenure.
Despite earning two consecutive Forward of the Year awards, Prater nearly quit soccer. Playing simultaneously in high school and on two club teams wore her out. She planned on calling her coaches to deliver the bad news, but Prater’s family stepped in.
“They reminded me how hard I worked to get to where I was,” Prater said. “They told me that I shouldn’t throw it all away because I was burnt out. That’s what made me realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t quit. This is the sport I love. I can’t just throw it away.’ I’m so glad I didn’t quit, because I would have missed out on meeting new people.”
Prater looked at Texas Christian University and Stephen F. Austin before Coach Kat Conner offered her a scholarship.
“I knew when she was in eighth grade that she would be playing soccer at a big college,” Prater’s mother, Michelle White, said. “She’s very driven, head strong and goal-oriented. She sets her mind to something, and she makes it happen.”
Once Prater accepted the offer, Conner envisioned playing her in high-leverage situations because she did not seem fazed by pressure.
“She’s kind of like Michael Jordan,” Conner said. “She’s very determined to win. She wants the ball—she wants the pressure. You want players that aren’t afraid of the pressure, and Lauren rises to the occasion.”
Prater scored her first career goal in her first game. Prater coralled senior midfielder Sydney Curry’s rebound and tacked on Texas State’s third goal in a 3-1 victory over Northwestern State.
Prater has appeared in every game this season, notching the third most minutes of playing time among her freshman class.
“She’s taught me that you can succeed in whatever, as long as you put in the hard work,” White said. “You just don’t give up on something you love to do. I’ve seen that through Lauren. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”