Like many athletes that play at the collegiate level, soccer has been a part of Ali’s life for as long as she can remember.
“I started playing at 4 (years old) but I was definitely following in my older brother’s footsteps,” Ali said. “I was running on the field where he was playing at like two, so it definitely been a passion of mine for a long time."
The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year has recorded 32 goals in 77 games on the Banks while also being named to the All-American First Team twice in her career.
Before joining the Scarlet Knights (4-0-0, 0-0-0), Ali was a member of the U-19 Women’s National Team and was named South Jersey forward of the year. For Ali, playing collegiate soccer at the division one level was always the plan.
“It always kind of been my plan,” Ali said. “I didn’t really want to strive for less than that so I knew that I would be playing at the highest level in college.”
As for where she would land within the D1 world, Rutgers was a place that was both familiar and elite.
“This program is very successful and I’m always aiming for the best ... I’m a Jersey girl so it’s nice to have my family around and come to a lot of home games," she said. "Even before, there’s a lot of girls that I played soccer with earlier in club (soccer) and they came here and told me they loved it so I was like, perfect, perfect fit for me.”
Ali is no stranger to big achievements but this past January marked an achievement that only a few women get to experience. She was drafted by the Portland Thorns in the 2021 draft and will begin her professional career after her final year at Rutgers.
“(Getting drafted) was amazing,” Ali said. “It was definitely a shocker too though because I didn’t really declare for the draft.”
For Ali, getting drafted just confirmed that her hard work with Rutgers is paying off and being noticed.
“I think it just speaks volumes that I am doing something good and that people are aware of what I’m doing here on the field here with Rutgers and with this program,” said Ali.
There are seven former Knights playing in the National Women’s Soccer League. When Ali joins the Thorns, she'll be playing alongside former teammate Madison Pogarch, who played a season with Rutgers in 2018.
Ali is one of many female student-athletes on campus at Rutgers and one of many more female athletes across the country. Ali believes that female athletes are just as valuable and skilled as their male counterparts.
“Growing up sometimes we played against boys teams, but we never thought we were less than them,” Ali said. “We have to let people know that we are here and we are a presence and that we are important.”
Female student-athletes take up more than half of the student body but only receive 36 percent of sports operating dollars. Male athletes receive $133 million more than female athletes do.
Even with these disparities, there are more than 200,000 female student-athletes across the country that continue to make their mark on the field, in the gym, in the pool and in the classroom.
“We can play just as well as men can so I think it’s very good to have that confidence in yourself,” Ali said.
For updates on the Rutgers women's soccer team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.