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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Keeping the dream alive

Soccer is a game of angles and trajectory, and the path that brought Jennifer Veliz to Pierce can be easily tracked back to her family.

Coming from Guatemala, the Veliz family has always played soccer. Her older brother, who she considers to be her biggest inspiration, taught her to play, and has been her mentor. Her mother, 50, still plays soccer in local female leagues every week.

Because she is very family-oriented and proud of her background, Veliz said she hopes to one day visit her parent’s homeland Guatemala and visit her grandparents, who have been  supportive of her as a student and athlete.

Born in Van Nuys and raised in North Hills, center midfielder Veliz, 17, has played soccer since 4, and is now exposing her talent on the field. Veliz is tied for the team lead in goals (3) and leads in game-winners (2).

Veliz graduated from Taft High School, where she played soccer three years. It was during her junior year when she was named City Section player of the year, an award her coach told her she had a chance at before the start of the season.

“There’s so many other girls playing in the city, what do you mean?” Veliz said.

Veliz said she never expected to be chosen out of so many talented female players in the City Section. She said she played because she loved the sport, not because she was going to get something out of it.

Teammate and midfielder Ashley Nicole Oviedo recalls playing against Veliz when they were both in high school.

“She was definitely a big threat to our team,” Oviedo said. “I can see her going to big places.”

Head coach Adolfo Perez, who has known Veliz since her freshman year at Taft, was not surprised when she was named city player of the year. He knows her qualities as a player and her abilities when it comes to handling a soccer ball.

“She probably has the hardest kick of any girl we’ve ever had here, and that’s saying a lot. She can score from anywhere on the field,” Perez said. “She does so much for us. She’s our future.”

Despite the powerful presence she has on the field, Perez said that Veliz still manages to be a levelheaded and supportive teammate.

“Even as the player that makes the difference in the team and the quiet leader that she is, Veliz is very down to earth and very humble,” Perez said.

In high school, Veliz traveled to Spain with the rest of her high school team. There, she had the opportunity to play against female soccer players in an environment where the sport is dominated and represented by some of the best teams in the world, such as Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona.

According to Veliz, women’s soccer is often underappreciated, but is taken more seriously in Spain.

“Competition was crazy out there. It was nice to experience that,” Veliz said.

According to Veliz, the connection that she shares with the rest of her team is more important than any individual measure of skill.

“The talent all the girls have is definitely a great factor in this journey, but the chemistry we have is what makes us better,” Veliz said. “I couldn’t be happier with the team we have. I love them, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the season holds for us.”

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