From town to town her passion never left


Cathie Lawrence

LMC’s Vanessa Kualapai attempts to stay away from the Napa Valley College players during the Mustangs’ 2-0 victory at home Oct. 3

For any athlete, the sport they play defines who they are as a person, it becomes a way life and brings upon a mindset that will last a lifetime. For Los Medanos College women’s soccer captain Vanessa Kualapai, the game of soccer is exactly that for her. However, her story is a little different from the average student-athlete that attends LMC. Many of the student-athletes that come to Los Medanos College are usually from around the Bay Area. They come from Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, anywhere in the Bay, and LMC always seems to have a huge mix of local high schools on each of their sports teams. However, in Kualapai’s case her story begins in Escalon, California, a town just outside Modesto with only 7,000 people claiming residence, and 65 miles away from Pittsburg, California.  She started playing soccer at a yo

ung age and gives credit to her father for getting her into the sport as well as being her first coach. Playing from a young age and to now here at LMC she said, “as I kept playing I developed a love for the game, and it became something that I always did.”

She spoke a lot on the fact that soccer was her family’s sport as she grew up playing with her older sister who went on to also play college soccer. About being able to play alongside her siste

r, she mentioned, “we both now what we’re capable of during a game, and we’d always give each other advice to become better players.”    

As a freshman at Escalon High School she was placed on varsity. “Where I grew up all the teams I played on  broke apart, so I’d have to go to a new team. Each team I was on I’d learn some

thing new from each coach, and I developed a lot skill and knowledge about soccer. I had all that knowledge and knew so much from playing before, and it helped.”

Kualapai played all 4 years at Escalon High School on Varsity, where in her junior year she was voted captain of the team.

She reiterated that playing for many club teams and gaining all the knowledge from her family and coaches over the years helped her gain leadership roles as she continued playing.  And In her final season at Escalon High School in 2016, she returned as captain for the team, and at the end of the year she earned first team all-league honors.

However, after playing soccer at young age on club teams and all four years of high school, Kualapai was content on not playing the game of soccer anymore. She said she still loved the game, but just felt it was time to begin a new chapter. “I wanted to do other things, and I knew I was moving [to Pittsburg] and I wanted to experience the area I was moving to, get a job, go to college, and do all the college stuff and not focus on soccer.”

Though the passion and the love for soccer was still there and she began her first semester at LMC in the Fall of 2016. Though one day her teacher gave an announcement on how the women’s soccer team was looking for more players, and the drive and passion to play the game gave her the idea to tryout for the LMC women’s soccer team. Explaining her feelings when she heard the announcement, “It was very random, and when I heard I felt like someone was telling I need to go play, and that’s when I made the decision to go play.”

“I was very nervous at the beginning, I was new to the area, I didn’t know the team’s level of play, or if everybody new each other. And I think after the first week I think I connected well with everyone and Coach Sullivan, it went very well for my first week.” Even though her first week went well, her first full season with the team didn’t go well as the Mustangs finished 2-11 in 2016.

For any athlete, to go through a losing season is frustrating. “It was rough and there were days where I was frustrated with myself but, it wasn’t a horrible experience, as a team we gelled well together, and created many new friendships.”

Going into this season the mindset of the team was very different. Kualapai expressed how the team got together early in the summer to work out, and after heavy recruiting in the offseason, the team wanted more and improve from their 2016 season. She found the 2017 season to be a sucessful result of her and her teammates hard work. “At first, we started off slow, but as the season went on we came together, had fun playing the game, and I think that’s what contributed to our success this fall.”

Now as Kualapai’s soccer career at LMC has come to a close, she thinks back to when she decided to stop playing the game she loves. “Playing at LMC really made me think back at why I wanted to stop playing in the first place and now I’m really excited to play at the next level.” Kualapai has offers from Division 2 colleges, and her dream college of CSU Monterey Bay and hopes to continue her career and education there in the future. “My sister just got finished playing at a 4 year, so hopefully it’s my turn to do the same.”