Breana Valentovish Leads the Tartans Through Action
Carnegie Mellon University senior Breana Valentovish is someone to count on. As captain of the No. 1 nationally ranked women's soccer team, she has led the 2023 squad to a 9-0 record to begin the year.
A senior in business and statistics, Valentovish started playing soccer at age seven in Cranberry Township, north of Pittsburgh.
In high school, she switched from forward to midfield, where she plays for the Tartans. When she committed to Carnegie Mellon in 2019, the Tartans played in the NCAA Division III national semifinals for the first time.
"I would watch the games during class or after school and see all the freshmen contributing and thought, 'Maybe that could be me next year,'" Valentovish said.
One factor in deciding to become a Tartan was the promise of playing with someone familiar, and not just someone familiar, but someone who was having success in her first season.
Valentovish was a club teammate of Alex Adams, a decorated 2023 Tartan graduate, who was setting scoring records and earning national recognition for her standout performance during the 2019 campaign.
"She kind of convinced me to go on an official visit," Valentovish said. "And after taking my official visit, I wanted to come to CMU because the girls were so kind and welcoming. I compared the team to other schools I had been considering and I felt like the program would be a perfect fit. I visited for a weekend and saw how invested the girls were with their schoolwork, extracurriculars, and soccer. It was motivating and made me believe if I came to CMU, I would be able to reach my fullest potential in school and soccer."
And having her parents and family close has been a blessing. "I'm thankful that my parents get to come to all the games, even if we have to take a plane out for the weekend," she said. "Their commitment to traveling and supporting my teammates and I makes me want to play even harder to make them proud. When I'm having a difficult week of class it is so comforting to hear my parents cheering at the games and see them even when we are on the road."
Now as captain of the team, Valentovish leads by example with her coaches looking to her to ensure the team is doing the right thing. Her largest responsibility is organizing captain practices in the spring when the coaches aren't in attendance. The captains create drills and scrimmages for both indoor and outdoor practice to keep the team engaged and focused on their goals.
"My team is very dedicated and motivated. They make being a captain easy and rewarding," she said.
"Bre leads by example on and off of the field," said head coach Yon Struble. "She is a wonderful spokesperson for the program any time we have a visitor due to her strong academic standing and understanding of what it takes to be a Tartan."
As a student-athlete, Valentovish puts academics first. She said the team, coaches and professors work together to help the players excel both on and off the field. She earned University Athletic Association All-Academic honors two years in a row and was a College Sports Communicators Academic All-District selection in 2022.
"School always comes first," said Valentovish. "People leave practice for labs or miss practice for exams. We have a common goal to win a national championship, but it starts in the classroom."
Valentovish began as a statistics major and transferred into the Tepper School of Business her sophomore year after taking some business classes for fun.
"I kept the statistics major because I believe it is an extra piece that sets me apart from other traditional business majors," she said. Between her junior and senior years, she worked as a financial planning and analysis intern at Arconic on the North Shore next to PNC Park in Pittsburgh. "I was able to use my statistics background while working on a few projects, specifically when I was building financial models."
Valentovish said the team is closely bonded and enjoys each other's company during post-game meals and bus rides. One moment in particular Valentovish recalled was a weekend trip in 2022 where the Tartans played Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Chicago.
"We won both games which is really great because those are really strong programs," she said. "Our team morale was just at its best."
Valentovish said she is looking forward to playing conference games this season, and that the team will be able to showcase their progress since last season.
"So far, the season is off to a great start," Valentovish said. "We are happy with our wins and shoutouts, but we know there will be much more challenging games in conference play. Our belief has always been that we are one of the best teams in the country. Every year we know that we have a chance to win a national title, but this year it has been nice that other people are starting to realize that too. We have been very excited with how we are playing, but we always look for ways to improve and make each other better."
Although her career isn't over yet and there are more goals to complete this season, Valentovish is excited about the trajectory of the program and has some advice for future Tartans.
"Be open to anything and come in willing to work," she said. "It takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth it because you meet lifelong friends and contribute to an incredible program."