Elder Fernandez Sisters graduate from TU with multiple degrees. One sister has a year of eligibility left to play.

Participation in the local PAL soccer league is a rite of passage for most kids in the Niceville-Valparaiso area. 

However, for sisters Kayla, Liliana, and Ashlyn Fernandez, PAL soccer was merely the first step in their journey to playing Division I soccer.

The Fernandez girls were first introduced to soccer in Tulsa, Oklahoma – the city they would return to many years later to play collegiate soccer. 

Their parents, Kelly and José Fernandez, both played professional soccer with a semi-pro team in Tulsa. 

The oldest of the trio, twins Kayla and Liliana, were exposed to soccer when they were just days old, going to their father’s professional soccer match immediately after they were released from the hospital after being born. 

The youngest of the family, Ashlyn, understood the rules of soccer player substitution as a one-year-old, “when she was old enough to walk, I would take her to my games,” recalled her mom, Kelly, “and she somehow had learned that the sidelines [were] the sidelines, and she would go on the sideline and start screaming for me to come off. She never once…went onto the field trying to catch me.”

When Kayla and Liliana were six, the Fernandez family relocated to Niceville, where they still live. A short time after their move, the twins joined the local PAL soccer league. Their natural talent set them apart from their teammates – so much so that the PAL director

personally recommended that the girls move on to a club soccer league.

From then on, the twins played travel soccer, starting locally with what was at the time known as FC Dallas and RAD, before moving to ultra-competitive clubs: Gwinnett Soccer Association, Red Star CFC, and Sunrise SC. 

Through playing with a club team in Miami, both Kayla and Liliana began catching the attention of college recruiters, which, in turn, earned them offers from many Division I universities. Initially, both twins committed to playing soccer at the University of Pittsburgh but changed their minds after feeling a sense of community and belonging at a University of Tulsa soccer camp. The experience prompted both sisters to commit to TU Women’s Soccer.

The youngest Fernandez sister, Ashlyn, followed in her sisters’ footsteps, playing for numerous elite-level soccer clubs while proving to be an asset for every team. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashlyn did not go through a typical recruiting process. After spending countless hours practicing soccer with her sisters in the family’s backyard during lockdown, Ashlyn felt compelled to accept an offer from the University of Tulsa, prompting her to graduate from high school a year early to reunite the Fernandez trio.

Since 2018, the Fernandez sisters have proven to be a driving force for the University of Tulsa Women’s Soccer team. Each girl has started nearly every game since their first year, allowing them to demonstrate their ability to work together effortlessly in smooth passing

combinations that occur instinctively. In total, the sisters have earned a combined nine goals for the Golden Hurricanes, an impressive feat considering that Ashlyn and Liliana are defenders and Kayla is a

Midfielder.

Kayla and Liliana finished their fifth and final season for the Golden Hurricanes with a tough 2-1 loss to the SMU Mustangs in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The team ended the year on a 5-9-5 record, but the Fernandez sisters distinguished themselves with their ability to play consistently and stay healthy throughout the season. In her career, Lilliana only missed four of 60 games. 

The pair have earned degrees in marketing and management, respectively. Kayla is in school to graduate with a

second degree in management. Liliana is working on a marketing degree on a pre-law track.

Ashlyn completed her Junior season for TU and is pursuing an exercise and sports science degree while preparing for her senior season, where she will carry on the legacy of the Fernandez trio. At the same time, her sisters cheer her on from the stands.

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