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Christian Union
March 7, 2018

Hilliard-Arce ’20, Soccer Team Enjoy Historic Season

By Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer 

As an emerging student leader at Princeton University and member of the celebrated women’s soccer team, Emily Hilliard-Arce aims to reflect her faith across life’s playing fields.

“You don’t have to be an official leader to love others – people notice,” said Hilliard-Arce ’20. “I try to make sure my teammates are OK if they are having a tough day at practice, or I send a text if they have an exam.”

After matriculating into Princeton, the North Carolina native embraced a vibrant relationship with Christ as her personal savior. Since then, Hilliard-Arce has flourished in the mentorship and support she has received from Christian Union’s ministry at Princeton. “I started to find my identity in God. I just found this joy I never found before,” said Hilliard-Arce, a philosophy major. “It was life-changing.”

WinterPrincetonThough her beloved Tigers advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals this fall, Hilliard-Arce kept the exhilarating season in perspective. In turn, she expressed profound appreciation to Christian Union’s team of ministry fellows for offering an option to the prevailing campus culture.

“At Princeton, it’s easy to be self-seeking,” she said.

Instead, the ministry has helped fill her thirst for kingdom seeking. “I started to know more about God,” said Hilliard-Arce. “I just want to know more and more about these huge questions in life.”

As she considered her squad’s historic campaign, Hilliard-Arce said she simply wants to use her soccer talent to reflect the love of God to her teammates and schoolmates. “All glory goes to God,” said Hilliard-Arce, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Hilliard-Arce joined with her close-knit teammates to celebrate an impressive run, including an epic win against the University of North Carolina in the Sweet 16. The Tigers claimed a spot in the Elite Eight after upsetting No. 2-ranked UNC in overtime.

“We shocked a lot of people,” she said. “We never really took a day off.”

In November, the Tigers’ trek to Los Angeles represented the team’s third NCAA appearance in the past six years. Though they fell to UCLA, the Princeton women ended 2017 by outscoring their opponents 44-11 and assembling a 16-3-1 record, the second-highest win total in school history. In addition, the season included a 6-1-0 run to an Ivy League championship, followed by a victory over North Carolina State and the so-called “miracle-on-grass” surprise over UNC. Hilliard-Arce especially savors the memory of a critical penalty kick she made during the match against NC State.

“I just felt like God really wanted me to step up and have confidence in my soccer abilities,” said Hilliard-Arce. “I knew if I missed it was not the end of the world.”

Still, Hilliard-Arce’s days on Princeton’s playing fields have taught the midfielder/defender to remember her ultimate identity is in Christ.

During her inaugural year with the Tigers, Hilliard-Arce was jolted into reconsidering her priorities after her parents traveled to Princeton for a game and the freshman did not see action. “I just felt completely heartbroken,” said Hilliard-Arce.

However, the experience served as a “huge game-changer” as Hilliard-Arce paused to consider the pitfalls of rooting her self-identity in academic and athletic leaderboards.

Later, Hilliard-Arce attended a gathering of Athletes in Action (princeton.edu/~aia), where she heard a volleyball player share a gripping testimony. Since then, Hilliard-Arce has found support and validation within Princeton’s dynamic faith community, and she champions Christian Union activities via her roles on the engagement and communications teams.

“I never really knew what Christian community was like,” she said.

As well, the autumn semester was remarkable for Hilliard-Arce as she cheered on her brother, a Stanford university defender with breathtaking dominance and acumen.

The San Francisco Chronicle described Tomas Hilliard-Arce ’18 as part of arguably one of the top classes in the history of collegiate soccer. Among their numerous accolades, the senior class recently celebrated three consecutive NCAA titles. With professional readiness, Tomas Hilliard-Arce entered Major League Soccer’s January 2018 draft as an alluring prospect.

More importantly, Emily Hilliard-Arce said she is privileged to watch her brother make leaps in his blossoming faith.

As for her own future beyond Princeton’s grassy playing fields, Hilliard-Arce hopes eventually to work in the non-profit sector, plus spend time abroad. She also wants to follow her father’s footsteps by serving in the Peace Corps.

Likewise, Hilliard-Arce, who is pursuing a certificate in entrepreneurship from Princeton, aspires to earn a graduate business degree.

But for now, she is grateful to use her talents to be an ambassador for Christ on campus.

James Fields, Christian Union’s ministry director at Princeton, is impressed with how the sophomore “takes advantage of the opportunities God has uniquely given her on the women’s soccer team.”

“Emily loves soccer, but she loves Jesus even more,” he said. “As a student-athlete, she embodies a great boldness and confidence in Jesus that is admirable.” Click to Tweet