Granite Hills soccer players sign NLI to Westcliff University

School may be out but that doesn’t mean signings aren’t still happening.

Two weeks after graduating, Granite Hills High School’s Destiny Rodriguez and Guadalupe Venegas came back to school to sign National Letters of Intent to play women’s soccer at Westcliff University in Irvine Thursday.

The Warriors are a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) program entering their inaugural season next fall. Rodriguez and Venegas will receive partial scholarships after Westcliff’s probationary, first season.

“It’s cool because you’re going to be the one that starts history in that school and everyone’s going to go back and look at us who started this new program,” Venegas said. “It’s going to be exciting."

Venegas added about the signing, “It feels kind of like you’re about to take this big risk and this big new journey. It’s also very exciting because we’re going to experience something we’ve never experienced before. And it also opened the door to new opportunities.”

On why she chose Westcliff, Rodriguez said, “They opened my eyes to see that university doesn’t always have to be expensive to be good. They have a lot of people that support you there and even though it’s small, we — me and [Venegas] — are apart of something that’s going to grow, as it did here at Granite for soccer.”

She added, “It feels good [to sign] because I’m also making my parents proud. I’ve been playing since I was a little girl so to still play soccer, it makes me happy because it’s the person that I am.”

Rodriguez noted that during her time at Granite Hills — two years on junior varsity and varsity each — she went through four different coaches. Daniel Dominguez led the varsity team this year and the Grizzlies went 5-14-1 with a trip to the playoffs.

Venegas finished this season with 16 steals, six assists and three goals while Rodriguez had 10 assists, eight goals and five steals. Both Venegas and Rodriguez play center midfield but they’re looking to try new positions at the next level. Venegas wants to try forward and Rodriguez wants to move from center mid to the right.

“With these two, they were great,” Dominguez said. “Guadalupe had an injury, probably a couple games into the season so that kind of took her out for a couple games. But she’s a real team player. She was always there when we needed her, she was always stepping in. If she had to sit on the bench for a little bit she would do it, she wouldn’t complain about anything.

“And Destiny was constantly a leader on the team,” he continued. “And actually both of them were. They were real vocal with the girls, they were upbeat with them. But you know they’d get on to them but both were good examples of what I want my girls to be like when I’m coaching them.”

Westcliff head coach, Joey O’Keefe, said Dominguez brought Venegas and Rodriguez to his attention and what Dominguez focuses on in his program is similar to what O’Keefe likes to do with his. He also said the two’s work ethic was obvious.

“Oh man, they work hard,” O’Keefe said. “They’re hard workers. They come from, what I’ve heard and what I was able to actually see, they come from a long line of hardworking people. And not only in their area but just their team.”

“...Not only that but their physical presence on the field is a huge part of it,” O’Keefe said. “And how physical of players they are. They played much older than their age. Most girls that age haven’t been able to fully been able to grow into the physical side of the game that the next level’s going to demand but they showed they can do that right away. So I’d say those two things were huge for us and then also their technical ability and their skill on the ball is a huge part we’re evaluating.”

On the signing, Dominguez called it one of his “proudest moments” as a coach.

“I’ve been an assistant coach at a lot of places and I’ve had kids sign but I think when you’re a head coach it feels a little bit different because it’s your program and it’s something that you’re doing to help these kids succeed,” he said. “And to me I think the best part of it is not knowing that they’re going to continue to play soccer but they’re continuing their education and they’re possibly going to do something greater.”

In college, Rodriguez plans to major in education and become an elementary school teacher. Venegas said she’s undecided on her major but she’s planning to also give education a try.

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