Miami Hurricanes women’s soccer standouts Lexi Castellano and Phallon Tullis-Joyce had impressive summers — and it had nothing to do with goals, saves, wins or losses.
Instead, it was about enriching experiences, spiritually and academically.
Castellano, a five-foot-five sophomore center back from Boca Raton, took an exotic four-week trip to rural Vietnam.
But this was no vacation.
Castellano spent 21 hours on three different flights this past May, and that was followed by a four-hour car ride to get to where she and 19 other college students participated in “Coach for College.”
It’s a service-learning program that allows American student-athletes to teach English, sports and life lessons to disadvantaged children.
“The purpose of the trip was to show kids that if you stay in school, you can go somewhere in life,” Castellano said.
“Where we were in Vietnam, most students drop out of high school to help their family farm the land. They normally have about 400 students in the eighth grade. By the 12th grade, only about 20 to 50 remain.”
Castellano worked hard during her trip, teaching daily classes from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
But she didn’t neglect her conditioning.
Castellano, whose grandparents Edith and Mauricio Castellano also attended the University of Miami, made sure to wake up every day at 5 a.m. so she could spend 45 minutes on soccer drills.
“It was an awesome trip,” said Castellano, a sports administration major who carries a 3.0 grade-point average. “It was eye-opening to see how people live in huts and sheds and don’t have the chance to reach their potential.
“The students are normally in classes with 60 kids, and the teachers don’t know all their names. But we had smaller class sizes (15 to 20), and the kids were sobbing and crying when we left. It was very touching.”
While Castellano was in Vietnam, Tullis-Joyce — a six-foot-one redshirt junior who is Miami’s starting goalie for the third straight year — spent this summer in Juneau, Alaska, doing marine biology research.
Tullis-Joyce got there through the Hollings Scholarship program. Thousands applied, but only 100, including Tullis-Joyce, were selected.
A native of Long Island, New York, Tullis-Joyce has long had two passions: soccer and the ocean. She started playing soccer at age 4 but didn’t become a goalie until she was 12.
Her love for the ocean began when her late grandfather, Donald Tullis, taught her to fish, and she chose UM largely because of its marine biology program.
“I love the ocean because of the mystery — there’s just so much left to be discovered,” said Tullis-Joyce, who carries a 3.75 GPA while pulling a double major, marine biology and marine science, with a minor in chemistry. “I’ve always known that marine research was something I wanted to pursue.”
After nine weeks in Alaska, she went to Maryland, where she presented her work, which was all about salmon and how they are affected by predators, namely Pacific staghorn sculpin.
Like Castellano, Tullis-Joyce found time to practice soccer, and now that the season has started, she’s thrilled.
Tullis-Joyce started all 19 games last year when Miami went 10-8-1, and she set a program record with a 0.84 goals-against average.
“I was excited about this season while I was in Alaska, and I’m even more excited now,” said Tullis-Joyce, who started this season with a 4-2 record, including three consecutive shutouts. “I’ve seen this team grow. I think we should be on people’s radar.”