As one of the anchors of a Cerritos College women's soccer team that went unbeaten on the year and allowed just two goals, sophomore defender Jennifer Lopez (Marshall Fundamental HS) has signed a National Letter of Intent with Delta State University. The NCAA Division II school, located in Cleveland, Mississippi, posted an 8-9-1 record on the year and finished in ninth place in the 14-team Gulf South Conference.
This season, Lopez, a 2nd Team All-South Coast Conference South Division selection, assumed a much larger role on the team after playing limited role her freshman campaign. Blessed with one of the strongest legs on the team, Lopez was assigned to take long free kicks, and even scored from 35 yards out against Antelope Valley College in the 2nd Round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs.
"What made me decide on Delta State was the fact that it was the one school that would allow me to continue to pursue my dreams in both playing soccer and my passion for becoming a pilot," said Lopez, who will be majoring in Commercial Aviation. "I was considering other schools, such as Briar Cliff in Iowa, La Verne, Cal State Dominguez Hills and Concordia in Irvine. However, at those schools, I would continue to play the game I love, but wouldn't be able to pursue my desired career. I just knew that Delta State would be the best fit for me. The girls on the Delta State team reached out to me and I fell in love with it even more. I know my future teammates will be lifelong friends, and flying over the delta while doing my pilot training will be beautiful. I'm excited for the big change. I just know this is the right path for me."
"J-Lo really came on as a team leader this year, being it was her second season with the program," said head coach Ruben Gonzalez. "She played center back on a team that allowed just two goals all season, so it tells you how valuable she was to our team."
On the year, the Falcons posted a 22-0-1 record and won their first 22 games of the season. Their campaign came to an abrupt end when they were eliminated in the 3rd Round of the playoffs on penalty kicks against San Bernardino Valley College. Lopez and the rest of the team recorded a school-record 20 shutouts on the year.
"Cerritos has taught me a lot of lifelong lessons in soccer," added Lopez. "I'd probably win Most Improved Award if we had one. From coming off the bench to becoming a starter took a ton of hard work and determination. My skill level and agility improved tremendously. Most of all, my fitness. I've never been so fit in my life before Cerritos. I am forever extremely thankful for that. I am confident in moving on to the next level after experiencing the training I've had at Cerritos."
As a center back for the Falcons, Lopez was responsible for helping clear out the ball when it made it into Cerritos territory. At the same time, she was looking upon to also start the offense, which ended up scoring 133 goals this season, which was the second most in school history.
"The one thing I will forever cherish in my heart from Cerritos, and I wouldn't ever think it'd be the thing I'd love, is waking up at 5:00 a.m. for our 6:00 a.m. practices," continued Lopez. "Waking up and the first thing I see to start off my day is my teammates faces at 6:00 a.m., was priceless. Everyone looked like zombies and we'd always get a good laugh out of it. I will always cherish and love our ten minute jog to warm up. We'd pout, we'd whine, but most of all we'd share our BEST laughs during those ten minutes before practice."