When Mexico takes to the pitch against Colombia on Tuesday for its first match of the FIFA Women's World Cup, it will be without its third-youngest player.
Tanya Samarzich, 20, a member of the Mexican National Team who recently joined the University of Kentucky soccer team, broke her left foot during a pre-World Cup friendly against Canada and will miss the entire tournament.
"The defender kicked (the foot) and stepped on it in the exact place that I broke it before," Samarzich said by phone from her home in Upland, Calif. "It was horrible."
Samarzich, a transfer from the University of Southern California, recently was joined by Penn State transfer Katy Keen as the newest additions to UK soccer. She hopes to be healthy for the start of the 2015 season.
Both players will be eligible to play immediately at Kentucky because they transferred from schools outside the Southeastern Conference.
"I'm hoping this preseason that I'll be able to come back," Samarzich said. "If not, they have physical therapy, it just depends on if the coaches want me to."
Samarzich, who shared the Golden Boot award in the 2014 CONCACAF U-20 Championship with McKenzie Meehan of the U.S., brings a potent offensive prowess to a UK team that was 48th in the country in goals per game last season. Mexico scored a team record 22 goals during the U-20 Championship, and Samarzich scored six of those to match Meehan for the most in the tournament.
"She's very quick," said Kentucky Coach Jon Lipsitz, who led the Wildcats to their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance last season. "She has a nose for the goal and she knows how to score goals. She adds another dimension."
The option to play for a program outside of the Pac-12 was a deciding factor in Samarzich's decision to come to UK, but she admitted she needed a change of scenery. "I wanted to try something new. I could've gone anywhere and I chose Kentucky. I thought the coaches were awesome, they're really nice.
"It's also cool to leave Southern California because my brother is going to West Virginia and I have an older sister in Indiana."
Samarzich played the 2013 season at USC but decided to leave in the spring of 2014 when the team changed coaches. Samarzich said the new coach asked her to choose between her college team and the Mexican National Team. She has spent the past year working out with Mexico.
"Mexico has my heart," she said. "I've played in so many tournaments with them. I've won a bronze medal with them, I've gone to France and I've played in the World Cup qualifier with them."
USC issued a statement on behalf of Coach Keidane McAlpine.
"We wish her the best at Kentucky, which is an outstanding program, and with the Mexican National Team, should she also continue playing with them," he said.
Though Samarzich has yet to suit up for UK, her thoughts sometimes drift to life after college.
"Hopefully after college I'll get drafted," Sarmazich said.
However, her short-term goals are to get healthy in time to help UK and to get ready for Olympic qualifying in January.
"I'm hoping I'll be ready for that," she said. "I'm hoping that we qualify."