But the idea she could lose everything she worked for — that is exactly what kept her moving forward.
Laying a foundation
On the first youth team she played on, at 4 years old, Alexa was a force to be reckoned with. While the other kids picked grass from the field, the Atlanta native picked her spots in the back of the other team’s net. This particularly angered one of the opposing coaches, who pleaded with Alexa’s coach that she be benched.
From an early age, it was clear her understanding of the game was one step ahead of all those around her.
As she progressed through the club ranks, Alexa began to build her soccer knowledge under Campbell Chapman, her club coach starting at the U-15 level, who saw the potential in a young Alexa from the beginning.
“She had natural ability to change a game on her own,” Chapman said. “She was always the type of player who could pick up a ball, dribble past two people and from 20 yards out take the shot and score the goal.”
And as she grew older, Alexa’s scoring prowess began to catch the attention of college coaches. Patrick Baker, who had previously coached Florida State to its first College Cup before taking the head coaching job at Georgia, told the then high school senior she could be one of the leaders of the next great program in college soccer.
“He kind of gave me the pitch that we’ll make Georgia what Florida State was,” Alexa said. ”‘We can build that program, you’ll take them to their first Final Four.’ And I was really allured to that.”
Alexa signed her letter of intent with the Bulldogs in the winter of her senior year. But a week after she signed, Baker stepped down.
“We kind of encouraged her not to go, and just kind of wait and reevaluate, but she looked at us like we were crazy,” said Deidre Newfield, Alexa’s mother. “She was 18, she was going to college.”
Getting where she wants
Despite losing the coach who promised her everything, Alexa enrolled at Georgia. In her first two seasons, the forward set several school records, including the Bulldogs’ record for points in a season with 40 during her sophomore year while playing on a torn meniscus.
The following summer, she suffered a similar injury to her right knee, causing her to miss most of the 2012 season.
But rather than look at this injury as a step back, she saw it as an opportunity to move forward. In Alexa’s mind Georgia had given her everything it had. Now it was time for a bigger opportunity.
“My sophomore year I did really well but I was still kinda like, ‘If you want to get where you want, you’re gonna need something else,’” she said.
After acquiring redshirt status in her junior year, Alexa asked Georgia to be released from the university in order to pursue transfer opportunities. Once she was granted a release, she sent letters to several schools to gauge their interest.
“She sent (letters to) North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame and Texas Tech, and they all responded to her within an hour and said, ‘Yes.’ And she was thrilled,” Deidre Newfield said. “And the rest is Anson Dorrance history. He just slam dunked it.”
Dorrance, the head coach of the North Carolina women’s soccer team, made sure that when Alexa came to Chapel Hill for a visit she was leaving as a Tar Heel.
When the day was over, the forward made her decision. She was going to the most storied program in college soccer — to a new challenge.
But despite her optimism, she would soon face trials similar to those that plagued her past two seasons in Athens. During her redshirt junior year, her first at UNC, Alexa was limited to 16 games while battling a quad injury. In UNC’s Sweet 16 matchup, she tore the meniscus and cartilage in her left knee.
And after recovering from surgery, Alexa began to feel pain in her knee again in July 2014. Her doctors originally thought it would take three or four weeks to recover, but after they decided to scope the knee they realized it was a much bigger issue.
The road back was about to get a whole lot longer.
As Alexa lay in the recovery room following her scope, she had yet to be alerted to the severity of her injury. That job was left to Deidre Newfield, who walked into the room to bring her the bad news.
Another torn meniscus. More torn cartilage. More recovery. More questions.
“I was kind of in shock when they told me,” Alexa said. “Because I was like, ‘This is my senior year. What am I supposed to do now?’”
Luckily for the redshirt senior, she successfully petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. She spent the rest of the season focused on regaining stability in her knee, and in the summer she trained with Campbell’s U-15 team to stay fit.
Before Alexa returned to UNC for the first fall practice, Dorrance and other team leaders discussed the possibility of her starting. But the forward wasn’t ready to be handed anything. It was time for her to work once again.
“What I loved about Lex is she says, ‘No, let me earn it. Let me earn my starting spot back,’” Dorrance said. ’“Put me on the reserve team. Let me fight my way through the starting team and see if I can re-win my starting spot.’”
And as the Tar Heels opened their first starter-reserve scrimmage of the fall it was clear there was one reserve worthy of a starting job.
“I walk back over to the starting unit and I just sort of ask them, ‘Well, is there someone over there that deserves to be a starter?’” Dorrance said. “And it was almost in unison, everyone said, ‘Alexa Newfield.’”
Entering No. 1 North Carolina’s match against Boston College tonight, Alexa is currently tied for the team lead in goals with six while playing limited minutes.
And despite the advice of doctors to give up the game, the sixth-year senior has shown no intention of slowing down. While there might not be a peak to reach, there are still several goals in her career she is adamant about reaching.
“I just didn’t want to listen to any of them, so I didn’t and I’m still trying to play,” Alexa said. “I never wanted to quit through it all and I still don’t.”