Guest-blogger Vanessa Rojas: CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying

Torrance resident Vanessa Rojas, who played for North High and Loyola Marymount University and is a member of the Costa Rica Women’s National Team, has agreed to blog for 100 Percent Soccer during CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. Her first post is below, followed by the 2003 article I wrote for the Daily Breeze when I first met Vanessa, who made her national team debut in Carson.

For those of you who dont know who I am, which Im guessing is everyone reading this minus my family, let me give you a brief bio.

My name is Vanessa Rojas and I play on the Costa Rican National team, but I am also from the South Bay, Torrance to be exact.

I am a proud North High Saxon alum, played for FRAM soccer club and am currently going to LMU.

You are probably wondering how Costa Rica got into the mix.

Well, when I was 16 the U.S. Women’s National Team was playing against Costa Rica and my dad (who is from Costa Rica) got in contact with the coach though e-mail. He told him how I was a dual citizen and sent him clips of me playing. So when they came down I had an unofficial tryout and got to play a miniscule 10 minutes, but for a 16-year old at the Home Depot Center it was a rush.

As time passed, I played off and on with the team, but it was not always easy assimilating to a new style of soccer, customs and players.

Fast-forward five years and I am getting ready to go to an Olympic qualifier.

I arrived in Costa Rica March 20th on the red eye and am practicing with the team until we leave Wednesday for the tournament in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Even though I have been training four hours a day in preparation to come down here, the sun has no mercy and the tropics defiantly know how to make someone sweat.

On Tuesday, I played in my first scrimmage with the team since I played with them in November.

Now that you know a little of who I am I will be dropping in with some blog posts as the tournament unfolds.

Here’s the 2003 Daily Breeze article on Vanessa’s national team debut, which also happened to be the first appearance in U.S. colors for one Shannon Boxx. Incidentally, when Vanessa trotted out onto the field she immediately found herself standing next to none other than Mia Hamm.

A tale of two Torrance women underlines the gulf between American and Costa Rican soccer as the two nations prepare to meet tonight at Carson’s Home Depot Center in the penultimate warm-up game for the United States before the World Cup begins later this month.

Shannon Boxx, 26, a graduate of South Torrance High, who helped Notre Dame to its only NCAA championship in 1995 and this season was named MVP of the WUSA’s New York Power, may make her national team debut for the reigning World Cup champions. Despite her experience, Boxx made history last week when she became the first-ever uncapped player named to a U.S. World Cup roster, which boasts a dozen veterans who won the trophy in 1999.

The tough-tackling midfielder will have 30 friends and family members in the stands to cheer her on in the nationally televised game.

”This will be the one game they are going to be able to come to,” Boxx said. ”If I get to play I’m going to go in with a lot of confidence.”

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Vanessa Rojas, who will begin her senior year at North Torrance High this fall and plays on a Rolling Hills Estates-based FRAM’s second-tier women’s club team, was scheduled to train Sunday with Costa Rica.

Rojas was not listed on a preliminary roster given to the U.S. team, but it’s possible the North Athlete of the Year could be added to the Costa Rica team roster. She qualifies to represent the country via her father, who is a native Costa Rican. Rojas had sent Costa Rican officials a videotape of herself in action and a letter of recommendation from her club team coach, Jeff Tuttle.

Rojas’ father, Mario, bought 20 tickets to the game for family and friends who will watch a team ranked 45th by FIFA take on a U.S. team that outscored Costa Rica by a combined 15-0 in its only two games against the U.S. in 2000 and 2002.

”It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” Tuttle said. ”I told her if she plays 90 minutes or doesn’t play at all, to cherish the moment.”

The U.S. team, which will play the 300th match in its history tonight and is riding a 22-game home unbeaten streak, is simply looking for an uneventful work-out in what will be the first game for a U.S. national team at the Home Depot Center.

”You always have to look for a competitive game. Teams are motivated to play us hard every time,” American forward Mia Hamm said. ”If goals come, they come. If they don’t, you can’t get frustrated and upset.”

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