For the love of soccer. Plus, your Sunday Paper. | Monterey County NOW Intro

For the love of soccer. Plus, your Sunday Paper. | Monterey County NOW Intro

The best part of college sports is the opportunity student athletes can get by playing a sport they love. 

Good morning. 

Celia Jiménez here, feeling happy that both the men’s and women’s Hartnell soccer teams made it to the playoffs (even before ending their regular season). It may sound easy, but it took a lot of time, training and determination to get here. I wrote all about that determination in the cover story for this week’s issue of the Weekly—on newsstands now.

I’ve never been a huge sports fan, but soccer is a classic sport in a Mexican household like the one I grew up in. I also got immersed in college sports when I was a student at San Diego City College, reporting for the City Times (the college newspaper). 

Something I saw there, and I also see here, is how student athletes fight, on and off the field, to get the best opportunities they can—from building strong relationships with their teammates, to becoming better students or getting a scholarship to the school of their dreams. Hartnell soccer players Belinda Ascencio, who played with boys because when she was a little kid there weren’t girls leagues, and Ramiro Vasquez, who made the decision to move here from Mexico four years ago and only knew a little English when he got here, exemplify this attitude.  

Ascencio is a very talented forward and several four-year colleges are trying to convince her to play for them, but she isn’t interested. She wants to be a firefighter and she is planning to enroll in an emergency technician program.

Her coach, Ivan Guerrero, says that it brings prestige to the program when his players transfer to university, but he acknowledges this path isn’t for everyone: “Although I’m all about academics, I understand that we all have to take a different path.” He says he pushes his players the same way he does with his own children. “I tell my kids, follow your passion and then I’m here to guide you and help you with whatever you want.”

Ascencio says she has felt female soccer players aren’t taken as seriously as male athletes, but she’s glad things are changing and soccer teams around the world now have female teams as well. “It opens up doors for a lot of people now that there are bigger teams out there and it just motivates you to do better and to give it all you got because there are a lot more opportunities out there now,” Ascencio says.

My favorite part of college sports goes beyond seeing a team win a game. It’s about the opportunities student athletes can get by playing a sport they love. 

The Hartnell Panthers still have at least three games ahead of them, two in the regular season and then one in the playoffs. If you are interested in showing your support you can visit and check when they will play their next game.

-Celia Jiménez, staff writer,

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