From Costa Rica to Jeffrey Field
Aug. 22, 2012
By: Greg Kincaid, Penn State Athletic Communications
Not often does a student-athlete from foreign soil come to America and in just three weeks, have an opportunity of a lifetime. Penn State freshman and Costa Rica native Raquel Rodriguez will be living that opportunity when she plays her third career game as a Nittany Lion at home against No. 1-ranked Stanford this Friday.
"Playing this game versus Stanford this Saturday is so hard for me to explain in words," said Rodriguez. "I feel so honored to not only be a part of this team, but also play against Stanford. It is such a big game.
The defending national champion Cardinal of Stanford will take on the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions for a special 7:30 p.m. kick time on the Big Ten Network this Friday. The first 500 fans in attendance will receive rally towels as Penn State attempts to have the largest crowd ever at Jeffrey Field. The previous record was set in 2010 vs. Virginia, as 3,912 attended the game. The women's soccer program encourages all foreign students who have arrived early on campus to attend Friday's game. Parking and admission is free for the contest.
One of Costa Rica's top players, Rodriguez has been a fixture on the youth circuit, leading the U-17 team to the FIFA World Cup in 2008, scoring once, while helping the U-20 team to the 2010 World Cup as well. An attacking midfielder, Rodriguez comes from a soccer family as her father, Sivianni, played with the Costa Rican National Team.
Rodriguez started playing soccer because her father coached a handful of youth teams in Costa Rica. Beginning at the age of four, Rodriguez would attend his courses and practices. She said that training helped develop her technical play.
"Since I was a kid I wanted to be part of a national team," says Rodriguez. "I started at a young age. It was awesome because it helped me become more mature. I always played with women that were at least two years older than me. It was nice to be able to fulfill my goals at such a young age. It was hard, but it was worth it.
"Playing for the Costa Rican national team has been such an awesome experience," she continued. "Since I started playing soccer, I had this dream to be part of a national team."
The way Rodriguez learned about Penn State is unique. The freshman never made a visit to campus, and trusted head coach Erica Walsh through phone calls and the internet.
"The only things I knew about Penn State were the things I saw on the internet," says Rodriguez. "Before committing, I wanted to come and visit the University but was unable to. I had to take that step of faith and trust what Coach Walsh spoke about this University. I am very happy with the decision I made."
For Rodriguez, soccer had an intense and different culture in Costa Rica. She said that in Costa Rica, athletes do not have a situation where they can play, walk to their dorms and then wake up the next day and play again. She added that athletes need to find time for themselves to study and educate themselves and balance it with soccer. Additionally, the balance between men's and women's soccer is quite different in Costa Rica as well.
"There is a totally different structure for men's and women's soccer in Costa Rica," she says. "Males are trained by premier coaches since they were 10 years old. For women, there are not as many facilities for us to play soccer. There is not as much support and not as many coaches. For us women that want to play soccer, we most likely have to start playing against men at such a young age."
Nevertheless, Rodriguez is thankful for the opportunities she has been given, not just to play in the United States, but to also play for one of the most respected programs in the country.
"I am just so honored to play for this team and University," says Rodriguez. "I love the coaching staff I play for here. They work in a professional way. I also have great teammates and that's all I can ask for."