Note: Written by Paul McCaw, this feature story first appeared in the Flames Illustrated game day program for Liberty's football game against North Alabama on Oct. 3, 2020.
As soon as she arrived on campus, Melody Jayroe was thrown into a major role as the starting goalkeeper for the Lady Flames soccer team. However, despite the demands that the position brought, she embraced the opportunity she had been given and began to thrive.
"I wasn't expecting that," the Texas native recalled. "In high school, I didn't get a whole lot of playing time. Being thrown into a starting position, I had to embrace the opportunity that the Lord had given me."
Jayroe quickly adjusted to the pace of the college game and was very successful during her freshman year, posting eight shutouts and a 0.84 goals against average, which was good enough for fourth all-time in program history. With those numbers, she earned a place on the Big South All-Freshman team.
Its Christian mission and thriving nursing program drew Jayroe to Liberty, but it was the soccer program that caught her interest the most, and she felt it was a perfect fit.
"On the field, I've been surrounded by great coaches who have helped me grow so much more than I thought I could have been. Off the field, I feel that I have grown so much more spiritually, personally and as a friend. We are such a family," the senior noted. "This program pushes you, not just to be a great soccer player, but to be someone who is well-rounded."
As the starting goalkeeper, Jayroe had to become a team leader quickly and be someone that others looked to as an example. The team's motto for the last few years has been "All In". Jayroe says she and the rest of the Lady Flames are committed to giving everything they have whether that is in practice, games, school or any other arena.
"On the field, you're going in for every tackle and you're going for every header. As a goalkeeper, I'm going to go for every single ball, even if someone's foot is right by my face. But, it applies off the field also," Jayroe stated. "In school, you're going to get your best grade on your toughest test. It applies to relationships, family members and in your faith."
The spiritual and relational development that she has experienced off of the field, along with her athletic achievement on the field, culminated with her being crowned the ASUN Goalkeeper of the Year following the 2019 season.
"I wasn't thinking about trying to get any records or awards. While I had some good games here and there, there have been so many times where I made a mistake and Cora Duininck, Kayleigh Kardos or someone else backed me up," Jayroe said. "Even though it is Goalkeeper of the Year, the award really goes to the whole back line."
In August, the ASUN Conference announced that all fall championships were postponed due to the coronavirus. While the pandemic has shifted the soccer season to the spring, Jayroe and the Lady Flames are taking each day in stride and supporting each other through the challenges.
"Each sport is being pulled out of their normal routine. We are all in the same position, so it is easier to encourage one another. If one of my teammates is feeling down, I know why they are feeling down and I can pick them back up," Jayroe said. "When the Lord takes your priorities away from you, it opens your eyes to see what He wants us to have as our priorities. Taking away soccer and school, I have been able to look to Him so much more."
Despite the delay, Jayroe and her teammates eagerly look forward to the impending season in whatever form it will take. The Lady Flames will have their sights set on competing for an ASUN championship.