Soccer program creates college athletes

By Andrea Camarena

Jorge Tellez isn't from Woodlake. He never played soccer for the Tigers or went to school on Whitney Avenue.

Still, he made it out to a soccer practice at Castle Rock Elementary school on a Friday afternoon to speak to a group of high school boys.

Tellez was invited by the director of Sequoia Gateway, Marvin Lopez, to come speak to the Juventas Soccer Club team. Tellez is the poster boy of what Sequoia Gateway is aiming to do for Valley athletes.

Sequoia Gateway is in its pilot year and the program already has intricate outlines to meet some big goals. The program is meant to use athletics as a means to get students from Tulare County into colleges and enhance their prospective futures.

The general game plan for the new program is to take talented high school athletes, send them to university hosted tournaments, take them on college tours, provide academic tutors, pair them with mentors and as a result, broaden their post high school opportunities. In its first year, the program is working on a small scale and an even smaller budget.

Sequoia Gateway held tryouts and compiled a team of 14 incoming high school juniors and seniors. Juventus soccer club's roster is composed of mainly Woodlake High School students but also includes players from Exeter, Porterville and Visalia.

The team has already competed in and won the Atlas Academy Tournament in Merced. The team competed together for the first time and went undefeated for the championship. Juventus is also registered in the Visalia Adult League and continued its four-game winning streak in its fourth weekend of competition.

Tellez, visited the Juventus soccer practice to speak to the young athletes about the benefits of playing soccer in college. Tellez, born in Mexico, grew up in the small community of Terra Bella and attended school in Porterville.

He began playing in adult mens leagues at the young age of 14. He played four years of soccer for Porterville High School, two of which he was a varsity starter. During high school he traveled to San Luis Obispo to play in a tournament with his club team.

To his benefit, the tournament was crawling with college recruiters. And they happened to have their eye on Tellez.

Though Tellez was accepted to UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Davis, Tellez went with the school that offered him the opportunity to play collegiate level soccer and the largest amount of financial aide: Cal Lutheran, a small private school in the Los Angeles area. Tellez made the soccer team his freshman year when only two of 15 new freshman made the squad. He has played midfield for Cal Lutheran for three years and has managed to double major in biochemistry molecular biology and Spanish. After his final season of soccer and his final year of school, Tellez will go on to attend a medical school in Washington State or Idaho.

Sequoia Gateway is aiming to give every member of the Juventus soccer team the same kind of experience that Tellez had. "It broadened my image of the world," Tellez said. "I went through what most of [these boys] are about to go through: deciding whether to go on to college or work."

Lopez is hoping that every player on the team chooses college.

The most recent addition to the Sequoia Gateway program is head coach Pedro Gonzalez. Lopez invited Gonzalez to coach the team after his son Roberto made the squad.

Gonzalez was born in Mexico City, Mexico but came to Porterville in 1975. He has been involved as a coach with youth sports in Porterville and Mexico for 20 years.

"This is a real good group of kids," Gonzalez said. "They have real talent, they just need the experience."

Gonzalez is excited to see how the team does when the CYSA league gets started in the fall and hopes to advance in State Cup competition.

"They have good athletic ability, good grades and lots of talent."

Team captains Willy Rosales and Javier Cevallos are also helping lead the team. Rosales is the starting keeper for the Exeter Monarchs. Cevallos is preparing for his final season of Tiger soccer as well.

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