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Portugal puts team first after 100th career point

Jugal Jain - The Miami Student
Jugal Jain - The Miami Student

Junior forward/midfielder Paula Portugal secured her 100th career point and became the fifth player in Miami history to achieve this feat in Miami's Oct. 20 game against Central Michigan University. Not only did Portugal reach this milestone, but the Miami field hockey team had the chance to make history and finish with an undefeated regular-season conference record -- and they did.

Individual stats has never been something Portugal paid much attention to. Before the Central Michigan game, Portugal had no idea she was knocking on the door of history.

"I didn't even know I was at 100 points until after the game," Portugal said. "They made an announcement when I scored, but I didn't hear it. Then, my teammates all started congratulating me and I didn't know why at first so I was pretty confused."

On the field, she's aggressive and balances an "I'll beat you no matter what" mentality and a team-first mentality. No matter the situation or the pressure, she keeps her demeanor in check without losing the vigor or intensity she plays with.

She carries herself on and off the field with cool confidence but not arrogance. When the game is on the line, she almost always ends with the ball the way she wanted it.

Off the field, she exemplifies the definition of a humble student-athlete. She is soft-spoken and laughs easily -- it is clear she cares more about her teammates than herself.

"I think it's pretty cool that I reached 100 points, but at the end of the day it's just a number in the books," Portugal said. "I care more about winning than any individual record I might set."

She finished the 2017 season leading the team in goals, assists and points with 20, 12 and 52, respectively. After the MAC tournament, Portugal now has 118 career points, but she is more than just a typical Division I athlete.

Portugal is a self-motivator. She keeps up with athletes like Cristiano Ronaldo but doesn't pay them much attention, instead choosing to focus on herself and how she can get better.

"I wouldn't say I have a motivator," Portugal said. "I just do my own thing. I think the most important thing is believing in yourself and knowing you can do it and working hard every day to get there. If you don't work hard, then there is no way you'll be able to get where you want to be. You have to set goals and work to make it happen."

"It" takes many forms in Portugal's life -- whether it's the math classes she's taking, conditioning on the field or caring about her friends, she gives everything 100 percent.

Her Spanish accent is obvious but there is no confusion, hesitation or discomfort when she speaks. Even in mid-November, she has the deep, caramel skin color she had coming into the season.

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Portugal has been in the United States for almost three years now and finds herself stronger because she lifts more in the offseason than in Spain. But, Portugal sees herself changing in more ways than just athletically.

"I'm a lot more outgoing here because being away from home I just don't care so much what people think of me anymore," Portugal said. "I just do whatever I want to do and stopped thinking about how other people see me."

When she isn't on the field or in the classroom, Portugal spends as much time as she can with her friends. When she's home in Spain she goes to the beach with her friends -- they'll rent a house on the beach together. At Miami, she loves going to the movies or shopping with friends. She's different from the stereotypical college student in one subtle way.

"I don't really watch Netflix that much because I don't really like that many shows," Portugal said.

As a student, field hockey player and friend, she still has one more season left at Miami, but what's in store for Portugal afterward is still up in the air.

"I don't really know what I want to do after school," Portugal said. "All I know is that I want to keep playing field hockey. I've been thinking a lot about it and I might go to Belgium or back to Spain. I'm not really sure -- I just know I want to keep playing for sure."

This season, Portugal was named to the All-Region First Team, Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, All-MAC First team, MAC Tournament First Team and was MAC Offensive Player of the Week three different times this year. This is her third straight season on the All-MAC First Team.

"Any individual records don't mean much to me," Portugal said. "I want to win and I want our team to win and what comes with that individually is cool, but not that important to me."