Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera soccer player Yvette Zuniga, middle, and her family are all smiles after signing her National Letter of Intent on Feb. 16 to play soccer at Ursuline College in Ohio next year. With her are Guadalupe Chavez and Melany Velasquez.
For most soccer players, getting noticed on the field defensively is tough, but for Madera Coyote girls soccer player Yvette Zuniga, she was noticed and signed.
Zuniga officially signed her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Ursuline College in the Madera High School cafeteria on Feb. 16 in front of family and friends.
“I’m excited about the adventure,” Zuniga said. “I didn’t want to think about it for a while. Now, I’m excited to explore different things. I’m just in Madera. I don’t go out much. I really don’t know what’s out there.”
“It’s a big deal for me,” Coyotes girls soccer head coach Cameron Hill said. “As a coach, you always want to see your players go on. It’s even more when you see the passion they have and to see them keep playing is an amazing feeling.”
Zuniga could be the first of three Madera Coyotes girls soccer players to sign her National Letter of Intent. Hill says he hopes to see Mia Alvarez and Brooke Gill sign in the next few weeks.
“Yvette was the centerpiece,” Hill said. “She was the center general for us this year and last year. Yvette has an ability to win the ball in the air. You don’t see it in the women’s game. She has a good physical presence. Yvette checks all those boxes of a defender.”
Ursuline College is a Div. II school in Pepper Pike, Ohio and went 7-8 2 overall last season and 7-6 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.
“I played for a travel team and we would go to these showcases,” Zuniga said. “At first, I was planning on playing soccer in college. Then, I thought I should concentrate on my studies. The last showcase I went to, I got an email from the coach. I didn’t think about it because they were halfway across the United States. They kept emailing me. I thought I should give it a try. I ended up setting up a call with the coach. It just worked out. He told me there would be scholarship opportunities and financial aid. I said why not. I don’t know how it would be if I didn’t try it. I went for a visit in Ohio the second week of January. I left just before a storm so I left right on time.”
However, before visiting Ursuline, Zuniga got cold feet. After hearing what was offered, Zuniga decided to take a visit.
“He sold me on the opportunity he was giving me,” Zuniga said. “I was supposed to go in October, but I freaked out. I have never been on a plane. I don’t know how it works. My mom had me going by myself. The day came and I didn’t go. The coach emailed and told me what they were offering. He explained how much they were helping me. I thought, this is crazy. I need to go.”
Zuniga, a center-back midfielder, will get the opportunity to play right away as a freshman as well as have her education taken care of by Ursuline.
“They explained every part of it,” Zuniga said. “They were paying tuition, room and board. My financial aid covers the other money. The only thing I would have to pay would be books. They saw me play holding mid. He didn’t tell me specifics, but he was impressed. He asked me what positions I played and they said they were in need of a center-back ASAP.
“I asked him if he starts freshmen. He said he doesn’t care about the grade you are in. If you can complete, you will play.”
Zuniga plans to major in nursing at Ursuline. Another reason for choosing Ursuline is the school has a partnership with the Cleveland Hospital, Zuniga said.
“I was good with just going to school,” she said. “I was close to backing out and just going to community college and playing there before going to a four-year school in California.”
In addition to Ursuline, Zuniga was interested in a school in Monterey, but they didn’t have a nursing program.
Zuniga’s mother is supportive of her signing with Ursuline, but Zuniga knows she is apprehensive about her going halfway across the country.
“My mom didn’t know how to react. She didn’t go to college, my dad didn’t go. I’m the first one and it’s halfway across the United States. She said okay. She’ll support me. I’m going to have to leave her one day, eventually. I would rather start being responsible and independent now.”
Now that Zuniga is signed, she is excited, but anxious about what lies ahead.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I’m going to have to start over with new people and new environment. I’m not used to snow.”