Allan Hancock College women's soccer players Bonnie Zuniga, Celeste Sanchez and Heidi Cortez were key members of first-year head coach Rob Cantrell's team last fall. The three freshmen earned all-conference recognition after the season. The three have earned another major honor together – they received scholarships to continue their soccer careers at a four-year institution, Waldorf University. Hancock hosted a signing ceremony Monday afternoon in the gymnasium to recognize their accomplishments.
"All three women are quality players with an unparalleled commitment and passion for the game," said Cantrell. "They are exactly the type of student-athletes we look for at Hancock."
Located in Forest City, Iowa, Waldorf is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The Warriors compete in the North Star Athletic Association. Waldorf is coming off 2016 season with a 4-10-2 overall record under first-year head coach Michael Wilson. Previously, Wilson was the head coach of the Waldorf men's program. He was named the North Star Athletic Association's Men's Soccer Coach of the Year in 2015.
"I can't wait to go out there and compete at a higher level and challenge myself on and off the field to become a better player and person," said Zuniga, who led the Bulldogs and ranked third in conference with a team-high 13 goals in fall 2016. One of the highlights of her freshman season was scoring five goals in the team's 9-0 win over Cerro Coso. She scored three goals within a 16-minute period in the first half. Zuniga, a Pioneer Valley High School graduate, scored multiple goals in three other games.
"Waldorf came out to scout our men's team, and I happened to be training with them and I caught the coach's eye," said Zuniga, who plans to major in sports medicine at Waldorf. "Once I started talking to the coach, I set up a workout for the three of us girls, and here we are."
Sanchez, a Righetti High School graduate, played a pivotal role in the Bulldogs' turnaround as a midfielder. Sanchez led the Bulldogs with four assists in 2016. Both Sanchez and Zuniga were All-Conference First Team picks.
"I am excited to take this opportunity to receive a quality education, earn a bachelor's degree and continue my soccer career," said Sanchez. "I have never been to Iowa, but it really helps knowing I will have two friends and teammates with me."
Cortez was an all-conference midfielder for the Bulldogs. The Lompoc High School graduate scored once and had three assists her freshman season at Hancock. She plans to major in psychology at Waldorf.
"I never expected to get this opportunity after my first season at Hancock, but I am so grateful and excited that I did," said Cortez, who said a family friend graduated from Waldorf and raved about the services and education at his alma mater. "I am thrilled to be going out there with my two teammates and continue my education."
Zuniga, Cortez and Sanchez are the first Hancock women's soccer players to sign scholarships to four-year universities in four years.