On Oct. 1, 2017, Hailey Phipps was at the Route 91 Harvest music festival enjoying Vegas and country music with friends when a shooter opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel room, killing 58 people and injuring 851.
Two days after the deadliest mass shooting since 1949, the College of the Canyons soccer team captain was lifting the Cougars to a 1-0 win against Moorpark College as she scored the winning goal from 16 yards outside the box with a minute left on the clock.
“It’s hard to explain what I was feeling,” Phipps said. “At that moment, I knew I was going to dedicate every game I ever played from that point onward to the victims of the Route 91 shooting.”
Overcome by emotion, the 19-year-old began to cry on the field.
“That night I saw a lot of things I hope no one else ever has to see,” said Phipps, who witnessed the shooting of her friends and spent many hours unsure of her family’s whereabouts after fleeing to safety with a friend.
After missing only two days of school, I wasn’t sure about my ability to play in the upcoming game against Moorpark, Phipps explained. “Nobody ever expects to go through a situation like that so I still felt a lot of fear and shock, but obviously I was thankful to be alive and that my friends and family were okay.”
Phipps—who is graduating from COC on June 1 with an associate’s degree in kinesiology —credits her team for helping her feel empowered enough to go out and do what she loves.
“My friends in soccer helped me a lot because I had my family at home, but at school I also knew I had my soccer family who knew what I went through.” Phipps said. “I knew if I needed anybody to lean on, then they would be there for me.”
Being on the soccer team was probably one of the best experiences of her life, Phipps said. “It improved me as a player and I met some of my best friends on this team.”
While at COC, Phipps earned All-Western State Conference (WSC) honors as a defender in 2017 and was named to both the 2017 California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) Southern California All-Region and All-State Teams. She was also named a United Soccer Coaches Junior College Women’s Division III All-American and the WSC, East Division Player of the Year. During her freshman campaign at COC, Phipps was named the WSC, East Division Player of the Year.
Phipps said she is thrilled to be graduating this year.
“Going through what I have, I feel I accomplished a lot.” she said “Going to school was tough this semester, but I said I was going to focus and push through and make myself and my family proud.”
In the fall, Phipps will transfer to Lubbock Christian University where she is excited to continue her career in soccer. She will major in exercise science with a focus on athletic training and hopes to become a certified athletic trainer one day.
As a mass shooting survivor, she continues to take each day as it comes, but believes the experience has changed her for the better.
“It is a night that will always be a part of who I am,” said Phipps. “I’m thankful to everybody who helped me get this far. My teammates, coaches and everybody!”