Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Senior forward Niki Fernandes was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA on Wednesday. She is now eligible to play this fall with the BYU women's soccer team.
"Last year was my last year," Fernandes said. "This year is going to be my best, last year."
Fernandes hadn't played in more than 10 games in a season due to injury since transferring to BYU from San Diego State, but midway through the 2013 season she found her stride. Fernandes scored four goals and assisted on seven more. She tied for third in the West Coast Conference in assists and tied for fifth in points.
She scored two game-winning goals in conference play and added a goal and an assist in two NCAA tournament games. She currently sits on seven career goals and seven career assists at BYU.
From the end of last season until now has been an up-and-down journey for Fernandes, who still played in the spring with the Cougars.
"It's been a long seven months trying to figure this whole thing out," Fernandes said. "I had to answer the same question 20 times a day — which is really nice because I know that people care. Now, I'm so relieved to know that I have an answer and it's in my favor."
She wasn't always optimistic about her odds of gaining a year of eligibility, but the announcement has given her some extra motivation with fall camp just around the corner.
"For a long time I've been doubtful that I'd get it," Fernandes said. "Now it's time to move forward from here and work hard.
"I want to remain healthy. Through this whole process I've realized I love soccer, but if I'm not having fun doing it it's not worth it. This year I just want to go out and play and give it all I can and just have the best last year."
BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood was also excited for the news and the return of Fernandes to the 2014 stable of forwards.
"We're thrilled for Niki," Rockwood said. "She's had a tough road the last couple years with injuries. This will be the first time in a long time she's been able to play a full year worth of soccer. She had a great spring for us and I know that she's really looking forward to finishing her career off with one more year."
BYU women's soccer camp begins Aug. 4, with the first scrimmage on Aug. 13 and the season opener on the road at Cal State Fullerton on Aug. 22.
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