Nebraska's Sinclaire Miramontez (5) clears the ball at Barbara Hibner Field during the game against Oklahoma University on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Just under two years ago, former Husker Sinclaire Miramontez faced her greatest challenge as an athlete: a torn ACL near the end of her junior year. Yet, she refused to let it stop her, and she didn’t miss a game her senior year. 

That fire and mentality made Miramontez a key factor for Nebraska’s soccer team from 2016 to 2019. It’s also the reason why she was the perfect choice to receive the UNL Barbara Hibner Memorial Scholarship.

“I was incredibly humbled and honored,” Miramontez said. “I wanted to be involved with women's sports, promoting them and helping them grow. I think that this was something that helped solidify my career path, and I believe it’s what I was meant to do.”

The Barbara Hibner Memorial Scholarship is presented each year to the female student-athlete who has demonstrated a high level of athletic and academic achievement, community involvement, integrity and a passion for promoting women's athletics at Nebraska. 

The scholarship was established in 2007 in honor of Dr. Barbara Hibner, who passed away earlier that year. Hibner was a member of Nebraska’s athletic department for 28 years.

“She was someone who had to work for everything,” Miramontez said. “She was such an important person at Nebraska. She worked herself up, and she was a champion for women's sports. She wanted to get equality and made sure that our women's sports at Nebraska where we're getting opportunities.”

Hibner started off as an assistant women’s athletic director. Seven years later, she became UNL’s women’s AD before becoming a senior women’s administrator in 1994, a position she held until her retirement in 2005. Nebraska soccer head coach John Walker said that some of Hibner’s best qualities are reflected in Miramontez

“It’s not surprising that Sinclaire ended up getting that scholarship,” head coach John Walker said. ”Dr Hibner was a leader, a maverick and had some dynamism about her. She was a strong supporter of the program and all women's sports at Nebraska. Those are the qualities that I see in Sinclaire.”

UNL’s soccer field is also named in honor of Hibner.

“It’s great when the stadium that I played for four years was named after her,” Miramontez said. “I think it’s a great honor and that, as a female sport at Nebraska, we were able to play in a place that exemplifies wanting to promote women’s sports to make them better.”

Miramontez arrived at Nebraska in 2016 and made herself known right out of the gate. She credits some of her ability to adapt quickly to Nebraska’s soccer team to her older sister, Sydney Miramontez, who played for Nebraska from 2013 to 2016. Her sister’s presence helped Sinclaire Miramontez quickly establish herself as a key player, as she started every single game she played. Of course, it wasn’t just her contributions on the pitch that helped her become a leader on the team, as her interactions on campus showed her the world that she could shape.

“I think my growth came from just maturity,” Miramontez said. ”When you come to a place like Nebraska, you experience something special. It made me more aware of my surroundings and things that were going on throughout the sports world, not just in soccer but just in how we can be better for all athletes across the board.”

Miramontez pushed herself in all areas at UNL. She received academic All-Big Ten honors three times, made the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll all four years and was a member of the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team from 2017 to 2020. 

“As a player, she improved greatly through her Husker career,” Walker said. “She grew to be a leader and a person with the ability to galvanize and influence others. As a person, she grew in academic areas, social areas, soccer areas, but more importantly, she was able to influence others and connect with them.”

Miramontez continued her rise sophomore year, scoring her first goal along with earning First Team All-Big Ten honors. The momentum continued into her junior year as she scored two more goals and made First Team All-Big Ten once again. 

However, Miramontez faced the biggest challenge of her soccer career when she tore her ACL near the end of the 2018 season. Miramontez wasn’t sure what to expect, as this was her first major injury. She also had never been away from the soccer field for more than six weeks. 

“If you ask anyone, what's the hardest part about going through and coming back from an ACL injury, it's the mentality,” Miramontez said. “For me, I was a high performance athlete and I couldn’t even bend my leg. That experience humbled me. It showed me why I love playing soccer and helped me reignite my passion and love for the game, and that was my fire every single day in rehab.”

Despite getting injured near the end of her junior season, Miramontez bounced back and competed in every single game her senior year. She finished her senior year with two goals, tying her season best, and eight shots on goal. 

“I wanted to get back on the field with my teammates because it was something I love to do,” Miramontez said. “Going through that injury and then coming back my senior year was something. I wanted to go out with the class that I came in with. Luckily it happened and I'm still playing to this day, which is something I'm so incredibly grateful for.”

Miramontez graduated from UNL in December 2019, earning her bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting. After earning her degree, Miramontez returned home. About one month later, she witnessed her name get called in the National Women’s Soccer League draft. 

“It was something I had dreamed about since the league first came to be,” Miramontez said. “Playing with some of the best players in the world was something I wanted to do. Then, when I heard my name and saw my face pop up on the screen, it just felt surreal. There were tears, a lot of screaming, and a bunch of jumping up and down with my sister and my mom.”

The Courage have played two games on the season thus far, but Miramontez has yet to see action on the field. However, Miramontez isn’t worried. 

“Being able to call myself a professional athlete and being in a place like this is just incredible,” she said. “Everything I’ve been through, the injuries, the ups and downs, the wins and losses, the times when things were really clicking and when they weren't clicking. It was all worth it to be where I am today.”

Regardless of the obstacles, Miramontez has pushed through and has never stopped fighting, which is why she received the award named after Dr. Hibner. 

“Coach Walker always talks about what a great human being she was,” Miramontez said. “Dr. Hibner was someone who wanted to advocate and make sure that female athletes were taken seriously and were given an opportunity in Nebraska.”