Charlotte women's soccer midfielder Malina Pardo represented Puerto Rico in international soccer play. Pardo is making waves on the collegiate and national levels by playing the game that she loves.
Pardo hails from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she first started playing sports. At a young age, she played multiple sports, but her love for soccer emerged as she got older. Pardo credits her parents for getting her involved with soccer at an early age.
"I started playing soccer at the age of four, my parents signed me up for rec league and I loved it and kept playing. Then I was also a competitive gymnast as well as a soccer player when I was younger until I got to the point when I had to choose one sport, so it was soccer," said Pardo.
Pardo had a successful high school career at Leesville Road. She received multiple honors over her four years and started her college career at UNC Wilmington. After two seasons with the Seahawks, Pardo transferred to Charlotte and is in her first season as a 49er. She strives to be great on and off the field as she continues her playing career.
Head Coach John Cullen has been instrumental in helping to elevate her game to the next level. Pardo is excited for what is to come for the team as well as herself. With Cullen by her side, she looks to continue to accomplish great things after a stellar season so far.
"I just like Cullen's coaching style, and I think it fits me better as a player and will help me achieve at the next level," said Pardo.
On the international level, Pardo has been making waves and turning heads. She represents the Puerto Rican women's international team and has four international appearances, including three starts with the team. Pardo has many fond memories, but two specifically stand out to her.
"My favorite moment was scoring my first international goal in the U-20 World Cup Qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago," said Pardo. "It was an equalizer that tied up the game, which ended up going to penalties. Then my other moment was getting my first start with the senior team that was pretty special."
Pardo, born in the United States, had multiple reasons for choosing to play for Puerto Rico. Her father is Puerto Rican, and her grandmother still lives there. She feels great pride in playing for the country that is such a big part of her.
"My father is Puerto Rican, and my Grandmother still lives in Puerto Rico," said Pardo. "I had spent full summers in Puerto Rico, and the culture has always been a big part of my life, and ever since I was little, it has always been a dream for me to represent Puerto Rico."
Having the chance to embrace her culture and heritage has been something that has stayed with her. It is an honor to put on the jersey of the country that means so much to her.
"Playing for Puerto Rico has been something so special and important to me. It's just a huge honor to be able to put on that jersey and represent the island playing soccer," said Pardo.
Playing on the college and international level has been vastly different, but it's a challenge nonetheless. Pardo doesn't shy away from the competition and continues to fight through the obstacles that she may face. She takes lessons from these challenges into her everyday life to better herself as a person and player.
"I most definitely feel like it has a huge impact on my game," said Pardo. "It has made me a better player by pushing me, and being able to play against the best of the best is a great experience."
Ultimately, Pardo has many goals for herself, both on and off the field. As a player, she wants to be the best version of herself and do whatever it takes for the team to come out on top. Pardo is confident that the team will be able to accomplish great things in the future.
"Individually, I would say I just want to help my team by having the biggest impact on the field," said Pardo. "For the team as a whole, the goal is to win the conference, make the conference championship, and compete to win it all in the NCAA tournament," said Pardo.
Professionally, Pardo has set high expectations for her future. She wants to continue her playing career by going pro after her time at Charlotte is done. Pardo is also looking to receive her degree in hopes of opening multiple avenues for her future.
"I want to go pro; that is my dream, so I'm just working on that right now," said Pardo. "I'm majoring in Exercise Science, so I am working toward my degree, but I don't know what to do with that just quite yet."
Pardo's focus now is to finish her college career strong with the team by accomplishing great things. As a student-athlete, she wants to make sure she leaves a mark on the places she has been. Pardo looks to leave a legacy that she can be proud of, and she is excited for what is to come.
"As for the legacy I want to leave, I want to be remembered as a good teammate, someone that works hard and tries their best, and being there for other people on the team," said Pardo.