Instituto girls soccer players make school history, set to play collegiate soccer

By Nic Maksud

Life-long friends and former Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy girls soccer teammates, Vanessa Diaz and Melissa Tolentino, will stay teammates as they both continue their academic and athletic career at St. Xavier University. 

After the teammates recently signed to play soccer at the collegiate level, this life-long dream for the two is now a reality. They grew up playing the game they love together and are ready to face whatever challenges together that might come their way. 

“If we are going to struggle together, we are going to struggle together,” Tolentino said. “The big thing is that I have her beside me and I am not the only one there…” 

The two soccer players are the first from Instituto to go on and play a sport at the collegiate level. They both had said that this was a huge accomplishment to be going on to play college soccer.  

“When you really put the hard work in you accomplish this,” Diaz said. “And you get to inspire others as well.” 

The two teammates give a lot of credit to Instituto for helping them get where they are today. They got to only play one year of soccer at Instituto, their senior year season this year, due to the pandemic and not having the numbers to be able to get a team together over the last few years. During the years where they were not able to find the numbers, the two kept their skills sharp by playing for their respective clubs. Diaz was a member of Chicago Empire FC and Tolentino was a member of the Chicago Magic Soccer Club. 

With some help from athletic director and head soccer coach Alberto Mendez, they were able to promote the soccer team and get a season going.

“Mr. Mendez has always been really supportive of us,” Diaz said. “Like Melissa had mentioned, we didn’t have a season the past four years, and he made this year happen and I think this played a huge role in us playing at the next level.”

But they also thanked the teachers over at Instituto for their continuous support as well. 

“We got the support we needed from many teachers as well,” Tolentino said, “they will go support our games and will give us advice…” 

When looking to play at the next level, it is something they both looked to do, but through camps and hard work, they were both able to get the offer to make their dreams turn into a reality. 

They both received an offer from St. Xavier and when asked what made them choose the Cougars’ soccer program, they said that it was the expectations of the team which could make them better players and how welcoming the girls who are currently on the team were to them. 

The two will go on to officially join their new team this fall and will continue to work together off the field as they will both be studying nursing during their time at St. Xavier. 

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