Gresham graduate Ariana Cooley prepares for her senior season at Portland State

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LARRY LAWSON - Gresham High graduate Ariana Cooley sends the ball upfield during a match last season. She was a regular in the Vikings run to the Big Sky crown in 2013.Senior midfielder on the PSU women's soccer team Ariana Cooley sets high standards for herself.

"One thing that my mom taught me is to find my limit and then break it. I was always taught that you have to go above and beyond the standard to be successful," said this year's co-recipient of an Alice and Taylor Alexander Endowed Scholarship.

And she's shown her dedication to those goals both on the pitch and in the classroom, where she is carrying a 3.96 GPA and is on track to graduate next spring with a degree in heath studies with the pre-requisites for nursing school (she wants to be a pediatric nurse and work in third world countries). Those attributes in the classroom helped her earn one of 10 endowment scholarships awarded by Portland State’s athletic department for excellence in academics and on the field.

It's not surprising that, besides co-captaining the Viking league championship soccer team with Kayla Henningsen, Cooley was just the second PSU women's soccer player to be named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District VIII first team.

At the same time, Cooley also had an outstanding junior soccer season, playing in all 19 matches and starting 12. She was third on the team in goals (4) and points (10), and recorded her first brace with two goals in the Vikings' 3-1 win over Weber State, then assisted on the game-winning goal in a 1-0 win over Idaho State two days later. For that she was named the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week, College Sport Madness' Big Sky Player of the Week and to College Soccer 360's Primetime Performers Weekly Honor Roll.

Under sixth-year coach Laura Schott, Cooley said the Vikings set very high standards.

"We know that with hard work, dedication and teamwork, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to," Cooley said.

And they darned near did last season, a season with few disappointments.

But the one disappointment was a big one.

"We had a great season as a whole and got first in the conference for the third year in a row. We had many individuals who got player of the week as well as making the league all-star lists. We hosted the Big Sky tournament and got to the finals. But, unfortunately, we lost the final game in penalty kicks."

Cooley entered the year wanting to get better in practice and to work hard, she said.

"I wanted to have a consistent first touch, be in the best shape of my life, understand my position to the best of my ability and to score more goals."

Last season saw a shift in position for her, as she played more on the wing with defensive responsibilities in the middle.

"I've played wing, but had to refresh at the position. It definitely pushed me and I really enjoyed playing the wing position. Especially, because I was able to get up the field and take some chances," she said.

She felt the overall team progressed last season. The team has improved every year as the players have gotten more time together.

"We have become more of a family. We play hard and leave everything on the field. It's healthy competition at practice which brings out our best," Cooley said.

Cooley's highlight for the 2013 season was going undefeated in conference and hosting the tournament. She pointed to a trip to Hawaii as a turning point in the season because "it was the beginning of our road to success."

Cooley is working hard over the summer and has personal and team expectations for next season.

"I think that one of my strengths on the field is working hard and organizing the team defensively. I need to improve my first touch, my awareness on the ball, getting into the attack, winning balls in the air and scoring," she said.

Over the summer, she's playing in a summer league and with her Viking teammates "to keep my touch." She's also following Coach Schott's workout plan and does daily doubles with workouts that include touches on the ball and extra running.

The running has been a bit light, though, because she suffered a third degree ankle sprain last spring, which hadn't completely healed by late June.

Again next year, Cooley said the team will set very high standards.

"We set goals for ourselves as individuals as well as for our team. Our overall goal is to be the best team every time we step out on the field. We want to win every game we play. One of our mottos is that we take it one game at a time. Last season, we accomplished all our goals except getting to the NCAA tournament. We plan to get that this next season," Cooley said.

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