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Garcia ’24: Wabash Soccer’s 1.5 Captain

Head Soccer Coach Chris Keller has one expectation for his team: to give 1.5.

The 1 represents one’s individual effort and the 0.5 is a commitment to work even harder.

Wabash Soccer Team Captain Hugo Garcia ’24

Hugo Garcia ’24 is one player Keller said has lived by the program’s motto both on and off the pitch.

“He came in right away and was a solid player for us,” said Keller, who first met the defensive midfielder his junior year at Crown Point High School. Garcia, from Demotte, Indiana, was a four-year varsity letterman, team captain, and selected as team MVP.

“I remember him being very quiet, very mild-mannered, but his field presence was that of a monstrous force,” Keller said. “Even at prospect camps, he was always one of the biggest, athletic kids on the field. He blossomed physically early, and just kept getting stronger and stronger and doing the right things.”

Garcia, a PPE major and economics minor, said the program’s culture is what ultimately drew him to Wabash.

“Multiple alumni on the team reached out to me and kept in close contact, making sure all my questions were answered and I was taken care of,” Garcia recalled. “That made me feel like I had a home at Wabash without even being there yet. It felt like the right place for me.”

Having played since he was 10, Garcia said Wabash’s soccer team was different than any other he’d been a part of before. His teammates are competitive, but always encouraging and motivating each other to perform their best, strictly living by the 1.5 motto.

“It’s a culture of respect—respecting your teammates and coaches, getting to practice on time, following through with commitments, and understanding there will always be consequences for your actions,” he said. “That’s really helped players, like me, develop into men.”

Garcia came in as a hard worker from the start, but Keller knew he was capable of more. Once his junior year came, Keller pushed Garcia to become a more vocal leader on the team.

“He always led by example and by effort, but part of my coaching with Hugo was getting him to be a bit more vocal as he got older,” Keller said. “He was selected as team captain, and I told him, ‘Now is the time to raise your voice. You can’t just be the guy in the back with your head down, just doing all the right things. It’s time to step up.’

“He struggled with that early on,” Keller continued, “but eventually found his footing and began taking command more and more of his teammates.”

Garcia credits Keller and his advisor, Associate Professor of Religion Jon Baer, for helping him become a more confident leader at Wabash.

“Professor Baer has always been there for me,” Garcia said. “Whether it’s been about soccer or walking me through how to navigate new career goals, he’s helped me out a lot.”

As a freshman, Baer remembers Garcia being a very likable, engaging young man with a quieter tone who also possessed a “healthy sense of self-assurance.”

Garcia celebrates Senior Day last fall with his family ahead of a home win over Hiram College.

“I thought he was going to do well at Wabash,” Baer said. “But I wanted as an advisor to work on drawing him out, and that partly came through talking about soccer and going to games periodically to cheer him on.”

Baer is proud of the growth in leadership he saw in Garcia as the team’s captain, and believes those skills he developed will transfer well after graduation as Garcia pursues a career as a project engineer for F.A. Wilhelm Construction Company in Indianapolis.

“He’s a glue guy. You always need guys who are steady, mature, and able to draw others together to face different challenges, and Hugo showed that,” he said. “This is a classic Wabash guy. A guy who is capable, brings a lot to the table, and has a bright future ahead.”

“There are players you always wish you could have for another three or four years, and he is definitely one of them,” Keller added. “When we built this program, we wanted it to be hardworking, no nonsense, have players that do what they’re supposed to do and not showboat about it—Hugo set that example for future generations. I will always be thankful for him.”