Originally from the dry deserts of Nevada, freshman forward Indiana Mead has found a dream home along the ocean here at UCSB while becoming an important contributor for the women’s soccer team.

Mead, a biology major, chose Santa Barbara for its strong academic program in marine biology and its relaxed atmosphere, in addition to the soccer team.

“The campus is beautiful. It’s a complete change,” Mead said. “Nevada is like 120 in the summer and here it’s like 70 and you just get to go to the beach all of the time.”

Mead has made an immediate impact for the Gauchos, ranking second on the team with three goals, the most recent of which was in Sunday’s victory over Riverside.

“Indiana was heavily recruited all over the country,” Head Coach Paul Stumpf said. “Everybody wanted her and we put her very high on our list. When she told us she was coming, we were just ecstatic.”

Recruited by other top schools such as Boston College, UCLA and Duke, Mead was intrigued by Santa Barbara’s marine biology program and the potential career choices it presented.

Soccer, however, was not always Indiana’s main talent, as she competed at the World Tap Dancing Competition in Germany when she was nine, winning three gold medals.

“I had to choose between soccer and dance and I chose soccer, which got me an education,” Mead said. “Dance — you can only go to Broadway, and I can’t sing, so there is no way I could make it. I think my technique on the ball is the best part of my game and that probably came from tap dancing.”

Success has been somewhat of a regularity for Mead between her dancing, two state championships on her high school golf team and, most importantly, soccer. Indiana qualified for the U-14 and U-15 national soccer teams for the U.S. before being cut from the squad after her sophomore year.

“That’s when I had to sit back and think if I really wanted to do this,” Mead said. “Being cut on the national team also really let me live out my high school career. It was almost a blessing.”

Mead turned that opportunity into a positive, playing for a club team during high school and improving her skills all around.

“I made the U-18 national team at the end of my senior year,” Mead said. “It was perfect timing. I got to get back on that team after I got to graduate and after I got to go to prom.”

Currently tied for sixth — and first among freshmen — in the Big West with two goals in conference play, Mead has had to transition to her current forward spot due to depth at her original attacking center midfielder position.

“Playing forward is a huge change, but my teammates and coach have really helped me learn the position,” Mead said. “Just as long as I get minutes I’d play anywhere — except goalie, I don’t think I could do that one. ”

Stumpf noted that Indiana’s future with the program is at center midfield, but for now she has made the best of her situation.

“She’s contributed greatly,” Stumpf said. “She is a very happy young lady, and is very popular among the team. She brings a lot to the table — it’s not just the soccer.”

A point of concern for Mead when entering UCSB was her defensive skills, something she never really focused on during high school.

“Honestly, before I came here I was an awful defender,” Mead said. “I didn’t know how to do it, but [Coach Stumpf] has been yelling at me to fix my defense. I’ve just been getting better and learning defensively.”

While at UCSB, Mead has faced difficulties adjusting to academics just like any other student, but it does not seem like anything this former Boulder City High School valedictorian cannot handle.

As part of a five-girl freshman recruiting class, Mead figures to be a main component for the Gauchos for the next three years and hopes to play soccer well after college if possible.

Even when facing challenges, it seems as though Mead can conquer anything that is thrown her way. If she can have as much success for the UCSB soccer team as she has managed to have in her young life already, the Gauchos will be Big West contenders for years to come.

“She is a very impressive young lady to me,” Stumpf said. “She is a great student, great teammate, great soccer player with very high aspirations. She is just a great kid.”

Indiana and the rest of the team continue play on Friday when they take on Pacific.