Jaime Rendich came to BYU with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Three years removed from her decision to join the Cougar soccer team, the 5-7 junior leads the young team in scoring, is engaged to be married to a well-known BYU football player in December, and is scheduled to graduate in December 2005 in marriage, family and human development with an emphasis in early childhood education.
Yet, this merely scratches the surface on the life of a young woman that has become polished and well-rounded as a result of her interactions with colleagues and coaches at BYU, while playing the sport she has always loved.
The women's soccer team completed its most successful season ever last year after reaching the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Gone from that team are six graduating seniors, including All-American Aleisha Rose.
Rendich is one of four returning starters including junior Charlene Lui, sophomore Claire Thomas and senior Krissa Reinbold (formerly Campbell). Twenty of the team's 33 players are underclassmen.
A new leader was desperately needed to step in and provide a source of identity and direction for this young Cougar team. That role has been filled by Rendich. She is one of the keys to the offensive attack for the women's soccer team this year.
"Last year's team had a ton of experience and we were good because we'd been playing together for a long time," Rendich said. "This year's team has a lot more talent and energy, with girls that are working harder. The only thing we lack is experience."
Playing some top-ranked teams early in the season, the team has seen its ups and downs, possibly going through some growing pains, but Rendich believes the team is steadily improving and will be ready for the Mountain West Conference Tournament in November.
"Jaime really feels a great deal of responsibility for the direction of the team," said Penny Rendich, Jaime's mother. "She really takes them on her back, and wants in the best way to contribute to the success of the team."
Rendich grew up in Canyon Country, Calif., in a home where she was the youngest of seven daughters, and the first to play soccer. Although her older sisters excelled in basketball, Rendich first entertained the idea of soccer as a 6-year-old at Leona Cox Elementary School.
"I was just playing one day at recess and I went home that day, and told my mom that I wanted to play soccer," Rendich said. "From that first time, I've just loved soccer."
All she had to do was convince her parents to let her play.
"My dad didn't really want me to play at first because he had all girls and thought that it was a rough sport," she said. "He was concerned about me getting hurt. But once he started coming to some games and saw how much fun I was having, then he was fine with it."
Penny Rendich helped convince her husband Bob to let her go along with the desire to play, and the two have never looked back, attending all but a few of Jaime's games during her entire career.
Growing up, Rendich never realistically considered BYU in her future plans for soccer.
"I didn't really think about BYU until I got into high school and started going to seminary," she adds. "I had a friend that wanted to come here and that's when I began to consider the idea. I wanted to go to North Carolina or UCLA ever since I was little."
Dreams turned into reality for Rendich as she excelled through high school and club play, attracting the attention of many Division I coaches, including BYU's Jennifer Rockwood.
Rockwood first visited Rendich during her sophomore year in high school. Heavily recruited out of Canyon High School, Rendich was the team MVP her junior and senior years and led the team in scoring all four years on the way to the state championship tournament.
Rockwood attended various tournaments and visited the Rendich home to offer Jaime a spot on the team. Rockwood instantly earned the respect and admiration of the Rendich family for the type of program she established at BYU.
"Jen is about the person and not just the soccer," Penny said. "It's a great opportunity for the girls to play the sport they love and be tutored by a great coach that helps reinforce all of the great things they are doing in their lives."
Narrowing down possible options, Rendich included BYU in her recruiting trip that included the University of Utah, USC and Pepperdine.
"Just walking on [BYU's] campus everything clicked. I thought that I could definitely go here," she remembers. "But I had to think about if I somehow got hurt and couldn't play soccer anymore, that this is the school that I would want to attend."
Coach Rockwood also played a positive role in Rendich's decision to play at BYU.
"She's such a good person on and off the field. For the first time, I actually had a coach who cares about the players off the field," she explained. "Jen can be tough on the field, but she cares about other things besides soccer. She never loses her cool and that's something I really admire about her."
Moving to Provo was not a problem for Rendich, except for getting accustomed to a colder climate. As a freshman, the climate was a drastic change for this west-coast girl who grew up on the beach. The way of life in Utah was much slower and more relaxed than the hustle and bustle of Southern California.
Most recently, Rendich got engaged to quarterback Jason Beck of the football team. The two met when Beck visited BYU on a recruiting trip in January. A seed was initially planted by Jaime's mom who works as the Athletic Department Secretary at the College of the Canyons Junior College where Beck attended.
"I didn't even know who he was when he first walked into the office," Penny embarrassingly remembers. "Here you had a guy that was the quarterback and just led the school to the championship, and I asked him if he was an athlete at the school. He humbly and politely told me that he was the quarterback on the school's football team."
Impressed by his polite nature and friendliness, Penny thought it would be nice if Beck met Jaime. Once Beck signed a letter-of-intent to play football with BYU, Penny suggested they meet on his upcoming visit to Provo.
"Without looking too much into it at the time, I just thought he was a cute kid and wanted him to meet my daughter. He had a kind of sparkle to him," Penny said.
The two were first introduced at a party by Beck's friend and teammate Nick Longshore, also a long-time neighbor of the Rendich family in southern California. Beck was immediately impressed with Rendich's willingness to meet new people.
"She is so outgoing and friendly," Beck said. "I love how she is always so happy."
The two began dating in May and are scheduled to be married in the Los Angeles Temple in December.
Jaime Rendich, in a significant way, represents every athlete at BYU. She came to Provo to play a sport she loved, a sport she has excelled at her entire life. She also came to this University to be a part of something special, a group of student athletes who are traveling ambassadors for the Church. Yet, Rendich has received more than she ever imagined while attending BYU.
"She could have gone anywhere but she would not have become the person she has become elsewhere," Penny said. "She has given up everything over the years to be on the soccer field and yet she has gained everything."