By Mara Allen, Mallory Allen, and Lindsey Gloede
Does the following story sound familiar?
An athlete from Chico, California, received no Division I offers out of high school. They attended junior college to prove they could compete before going on to have a successful career at the D1 level. Now, they’re playing in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
It’s the tale of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, of course. But it’s also the story of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (UWGB) third baseman, Alicia Peters.
Peters’s softball career started with tee-ball when she was six years old. She then began playing softball competitively at the age of eight.
Even at a young age, Peters faced setbacks. After being diagnosed with spherocytosis, a blood disease that affects red blood cells, she had to have her spleen removed before first grade.
Common side effects of spherocytosis include shortness of breath and fatigue due to decreased oxygen flow. As a result, Peters’s doctor told her that many people with this disease have difficulty competing in high-intensity sports that require high levels of oxygen flow. Peters made it her mission to prove that statistic wrong.
She attended Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, CA, from 2012 to 2016 — the same high school Rodgers graduated from in 2002.
During her junior year softball season at Pleasant Valley, Peters was forced to leave the team to focus on family matters happening at the time and to take care of her younger sister.
“It was really difficult,” Peters said of the decision. “Our team was really good, and I was playing really well that year.” Ultimately, Peters said she had to sacrifice softball to put her family first.
Peters returned for her senior year with the Vikings, but because she missed so much of her junior season — when a heavy portion of college recruiting occurs — she did not receive any Division I offers.
“It was depressing. I remember I used to cry all the time,” Peters said. “But I knew I just had to get through it.”
Refusing to give up, Peters chose to attend Sierra College — a community college in Rocklin, CA — to continue her softball career and work toward her goal of eventually playing at the D1 level.
She said she struggled to earn playing time her first year, but a few impressive games toward the end of her freshman season gave Peters the confidence she needed to bet on herself going forward.
Peters found herself at a crossroads when her softball coach at Sierra told her that she didn’t think Peters was good enough to play at the Division I level. According to the coach, Peters would only ever be successful at the lower National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or Division III levels.
As a result, Peters quit the team and decided to train individually.
She worked toward recruitment on her own, staying up late every night to email her film to D1 coaches and express interest in playing for their programs. Despite no longer playing collegiately, Peters was still taking reps and getting exposure thanks to an old travel ball coach who let Peters play with her team.
Eventually, all of Peters’s hard work and perseverance paid off. After earning her associate’s degree in Psychology and Science of Social Behavior from Sierra College in the spring of 2018, Peters enrolled at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York.
It was there when she finally achieved her dream of being a part of a Division I program, as Peters signed to play softball for the Bulls.
When Buffalo’s 2021 schedule was announced, three games, in particular, stood out to Peters. Her team would be playing against Louisiana State University (LSU), Oklahoma State University (OSU), and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL). All three programs had told her she wasn’t good enough to play for them or at their level during her recruitment process a few years earlier.
Remembering these conversations gave Peters extra motivation. “When I saw our schedule last year — that we were playing these three schools — every single workout, every single practice, every lifting session, I went in there with the mindset of ‘I will make these coaches sorry,'” Peters said.
And she did. Peters performed well against all three of those opposing teams, even hitting a game-tying home run during Buffalo’s game against LSU.
Peters had great success academically throughout her two years in New York; she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and began a master’s program in rehab counseling for disabilities. She was prosperous athletically as well, continuing to prove all her doubters wrong.
Still, Peters wasn’t especially happy at the University of Buffalo. Thus, after graduating, Peters decided to use her extra year of eligibility to play for a different program. Betting on herself yet again, she entered her name in the NCAA transfer portal.
After spending time with UWGB softball utility player Lauren King at a summer camp, Peters learned about Green Bay’s program and talked with Phoenix Head Coach Sara Kubuske.
“Alicia’s competitive drive is what stood out the most to me. She always talked about wanting to better herself and her team. She never mentioned wanting guaranteed playing time. She wanted to come in and compete and be a part of the culture we are trying to build here at Green Bay,” Kubuske said.
A few days later, Peters committed to play at UW-Green Bay.
Now a graduate student studying Health and Wellness Management and continuing her dream of playing Division I softball, Peters looks back on her journey and smiles.
After years of facing adversity, here she is — in Green Bay, Wisconsin — happy, content, and proving her doubters wrong, exactly like her hometown hero. The same hero who gave her so much hope while she was struggling years ago.
“I love Aaron Rodgers. I love his story,” Peters said. “When I was in high school deciding to go to junior college, I used to watch his interviews over and over and over, because it was the only thing giving me hope. Looking at him, he was this huge superstar, and he went on this same path that I was going on. He made it out [and proved everyone wrong].”
Through it all, Peters said she’s realized that her struggles have made her a stronger person. Though her journey hasn’t been easy, it was worth it in the end.
Coach Kubuske recognizes this. “She hasn’t had an easy path. She has had ups and downs, but I’ll tell you something… that kid has never given up. She didn’t want things handed to her. She was willing and had to work for every single thing she had gotten. It’s been a grind for her, but I think it is safe to say her hard work has paid off,” Kubuske said.
If there’s one resounding lesson Peters has learned along the way, it’s this: “If I keep betting on myself, I can’t lose.”