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Class of 2021: Soccer star builds future on the field and in medicine

by Apr. 30, 2021, 8:00 AM

As the clock crept toward midnight and selections were coming in the National Women’s Soccer League draft in January, Vanderbilt soccer head coach Darren Ambrose kept calling Myra Konte to make sure the senior defender was still watching the proceedings.

Myra Konte, Class of 2021 (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

He needn’t have worried. Surrounded by family at home in Virginia, Konte was glued to the screen when the most successful franchise in the best league in the world called her name. Champions in both of the league’s past two full seasons, the North Carolina Courage selected Konte in the third round, 30th overall. She is the first Vanderbilt player ever drafted by an NWSL team.  

“My jaw dropped,” Konte recalled. “My mom was screaming—because she also loves the North Carolina Courage. So everything worked out perfectly. We’re still shocked with the entire thing. But it was amazing.” 

Konte is part of the first generation of young women to grow up with a stable professional league they could dream of joining. Two earlier leagues came and went within a matter of years. But Konte was still in middle school when the NWSL played its first season. She watched the games. She knew the teams. She saw college teammate Simone Charley, BA’17, MA’18, make a name for herself in the league. She watched the Courage emerge as a dynasty, playing a fast-paced, aggressive brand of soccer that relies on talented outside backs—the position that suits her.   

In that moment, she realized a lifelong dream in the most storybook way possible. And in almost the next moment, she put that dream on hold. Professional soccer will wait. 

Future in medicine

Instead of the NWSL, Konte is playing for the Commodores this spring as the SEC champions prepare for the rescheduled NCAA tournament. She also will be here when a new season begins in the fall, using additional eligibility the NCAA granted to all seniors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as she begins work on her master’s degree in medicine, health and society.  

Konte grew up with a vague sense that she might like to work in medicine someday, but the people she learned from and studied alongside at Vanderbilt helped hone those inclinations into a vision to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Charley, who balanced soccer and track and field while also earning all-conference academic honors, and roommate and classmate Leila Azari, a key figure in the Commodores’ midfield and an academic honoree every year, showed Konte what it looked like to have goals beyond soccer and how to work toward them. Courses taught by JuLeigh Petty, BA’95, principal senior lecturer in medicine, health and society, and Assistant Professor of Sociology Bianca Manago expanded her horizons as well.  

But the events of the past year crystallized her calling in life perhaps more than anything else.  

“With how intense everything has been, I think it might push some people away from medical fields and especially nursing,” Konte said. “But I feel like it drew me even more into it because I saw all these terrible things happening and felt just how much sadness we’ve experienced. I’ve always wanted to help people, and with where I am right now, I couldn’t. So for me, this whole experience drew me even more toward that desire to be a medical professional.” 

The extra year at Vanderbilt will help Konte as a soccer player. It’s another year to move beyond the ACL tear she suffered in a game in 2019 and the clean-up surgery for that injury this past summer. But there is much more to her than just what transpires on the field—enough to know that delaying her dream come true in the NWSL is part of the path toward her ultimate dream in medicine. 

This profile is part of a series of stories and videos highlighting undergraduate and graduate students in the Class of 2021.

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