Soccer opens door to the future


Photo by Jessica Mangili

Senior Estela Rodriguez is a four year member of the varsity girls soccer team.

She drives down the field effortlessly, her pony tail swaying back and forth. The ball glides across the turf, seamlessly moving between each foot. A slight smile crosses her face as she watches her shot soar through the air and into the back of the net.

When she steps onto the field and plays, her stress melts away and she finds herself. “It’s my passion,” senior Estela Rodriguez said. “I feel like a regular person and when I step on the field I feel like I belong — I’m something more.”

Rodriguez is the second soccer player from both the boys and girls program in six years to receive a scholarship to play in college. Although she received multiple emails from schools offering her aid, she settled on her first offer from William Jessup University located in Rocklin.

For every year that she plays, Rodriguez will receive $11,000. While this is more than most student-athletes receive, her scholarship will cover less than half of the tuition per year.

The scholarship did not come from talent alone, but countless hours of sharpening her skills. She started playing soccer at age 4 just like many other kids. But unlike many others, something clicked for her.

“Soccer is basically my life,” Rodriguez said. “If it wasn’t for soccer then I wouldn’t be where I am in life. It’s not a part of me, it is me.”

She is quick to chalk up her success to her father. He was the one who started her in the sport and coached her. At times the two struggled to balance between their relationship as father and daughter and as coach and player.

“It’s hard having him as my coach, because I get attitude when I get frustrated,” Rodriguez said. “He guides me through and always supports me through everything.”

Her father also pushed her to join a competitive soccer team, the Stockton Storm, to help further develop her skills. This provided her with contact with college scouts as well, because scouts rarely attend high school games anymore.

While training with her high school team, she would set up private trainings with head coach Chris Viri and would attend various Crossfit programs to help build her endurance and her agility.

“She started late, later than most girls that get scholarships do,” Viri said. “So it’s a tremendous credit to her that she has improved every year she played the sport.”

What makes the starting forward stand out among other scholarship recipients is her aggressive playing style and ability to improve her skills.

“She is a very intense player,” Viri said. “She brings an element of pace and physicality to the game that most girls don’t bring because they are too afraid to be aggressive.”

Her ball handling ability is not the only skill she brings to the team. She also brings leadership.
“She is more of the mean teammate that tells it as it is,” senior and teammate Breeana Hernandez said. “That’s needed on a team, because she isn’t afraid to say something when it needs to be said. She is the type of player you end up thanking later on.”

Many members of both the varsity and JV team look up to Rodriguez and are inspired by her to improve their own skills.

“She’s amazing,” sophomore and JV player Megan Jimenez said. “When she plays you can tell that she is great. She puts in a lot of effort and makes me want to be a better player.”

Rodriguez hopes to one day play pro and make her family proud, but until then her focus is on just getting through high school and being a key asset in helping her team go to playoffs for the third year in a row.