It was a routine play. One that Lehi’s Claire Robbins had made countless times before.
The Pioneers were on the road playing the Timberwolves on Sep. 10. After gaining possession of the ball, a Timpanogos defender played it up the sideline for an offensive teammate to run onto.
Robbins, a four-year starter and three-year team captain, read the play, beat the charging opposing player to the ball and cleared it with her left foot.
The Timberwolf player attempted to kick the ball, but was a fraction of a second late and ended up striking the outside of Robbins’ left leg just below the knee with the thick portion of her left shin bone.
Claire went down.
She got back on her feet, and hopped and ran 70 yards to help her team on defense – on an injured leg. Robbins had sustained a fibula fracture on the play.
Robbins is a fierce competitor and takes great pride in being a defender. She knew she was hurt, but said she felt she had to get back on defense to prevent Timpanogos from scoring.
“I absolutely love playing defense. Being part of the back line is like having a little family. There is a different kind of recognition you get when you save a goal in comparison to when you score.
“It’s less flashy and exciting but I think you get more gratitude from your team,” said Robbins.
As a fast, fearless defender, Robbins is used to hard challenges and collisions – and enjoys the physical nature of the position.
“It’s thrilling! Running into tackles and sliding to win the ball,” she said. “Sacrificing my body to prevent the other team from scoring. Walking off the field with crazy turf burn is like a badge of honor,” she continued.
Fellow senior defender and team captain Kailey Robertson has played with Claire for six years. She has great admiration for Robbins as a leader and as a person.
“Claire is one of the nicest, most selfless people you will ever meet. She leads in kindness and I look up to her so much,” said Robertson. She also makes her opinion of Claire’s soccer abilities very clear. “Claire is the best defender in the state!” she said.
Amy Ballard, a former Pioneer teammate and fellow team captain, was two years ahead of Robbins in the program. She remembers noticing the younger player’s athleticism and leadership early on during summer workouts.
“If there was ever a perfect teammate, Claire Robbins was it. She was a leader on the field because of her outstanding athletic ability as well as her mental toughness and determination. She always gave 100% in every drill, scrimmage and game,” Ballard said.
“The team could always count on Claire. She is a really fast player and used her speed to chase down the opposing offensive players. She was always able to get to the ball and clear it, no matter the circumstance,” said Ballard.
This is high praise from the 2019 state track champion in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
Robbins appreciates Coach Tim Graham and how he has helped her develop on and off the pitch.
“He has been my most influential coach as well as my most supportive. He’s definitely tough on us, but it has taken our mental strength to the next level,” she said.
“My team knows how to dig down and get the win because of that. He has helped me grow so much as a player as well as a person. I owe him a lot.”
Graham has appreciated their association just as much. “I consider it an honor to be called coach by Claire Robbins,” he said.
“The biggest reward I have as a coach is having a front row seat to watch young people grow as players and as people. It has been awesome to be able to watch Claire grow up over the last three years and I have learned way more from her than she ever has from me,” the coach said.
This has been a special season for Lehi. With only three more region games, at 7-2 they are currently leading Region 7. The Pioneers appear primed to have a great state tournament.
Claire believes in her teammates, and although she will not be with them on the field for the rest of the season, she will continue to lead from the sidelines.
“The only words that I have for my Lehi girls is to keep on fighting! We’ve had our hearts set on big goals all season and this doesn’t change that,” she said. “I love you guys to death and I know we can do great things. It’s time to step it up and get it done.”
As for Robbins, she faces months of rehabilitation after her fracture heals, but it hasn’t changed her plans for the future. She’s headed to Minot State University in North Dakota for an opportunity to continue to develop her soccer talents at the collegiate level.