Cardinal Mooney High School varsity soccer player Julie Vazquez will be heading to Sochi, Russia, to participate in the annual 2014 Kuban Spring international women's youth tournament March 19 through 31.
The tournament, which is sponsored by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (the world soccer governing body) will include 12 international teams--Russia, Krasnodar region, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Israel, Slovakia, Estonia, Ukraine, Iran and Azerbaijan.
Through her participation in the U.S. Region One Under-17 Team Girl's Olympic Development Program, which is an organization that identifies and hones the skills of young soccer athletes in preparation for the U.S. national team, Vazquez was selected to participate in the tournament.
Photo by Eartha Terrell, Town Crier
Julie Vazquez of Boardman will be heading to Sochi this month to take part in the 2014 Kuban Spring International women's youth soccer tournament.
''It's an amazing opportunity that I didn't expect to come my way, and I'm really looking forward to the experience because it's something that not many people get to experience. I'm nervous but I think that comes with this big opportunity. I'm just extremely grateful,'' Vazquez said.
According to Vazquez, competing in this event will bring her one step closer to her ultimate dream of playing for the national Olympic team.
''It's a stepping stone to the national team. I think the whole Olympic team is amazing. I just want to be at the highest level and I think representing the U.S. would be an amazing experience,'' she said.
After watching the Women's National World Cup in 2011, Vazquez set her sights on playing for the national team and has worked with earnest to achieve her goal ever since.
''In 2011, when I saw the Women's National team play in the World Cup, it hit me [and] that's when I realized that's what I wanted to be,'' she said.
While some her age may shutter with fear at the thought of competing on such a large platform, the 17-year-old, however, is no stranger to competition. Vazquez has dedicated more than a decade to the sport of soccer and shows little sign of slowing down.
As a 3-year-varsity-letter winner for CMHS, Vazquez has scored more than 70 points during her career thus far, been selected for the all-district team since 2011 and named first team All-Ohio her sophomore and junior years. She has also been a member of the Pennsylvania ODP for the past 11 years, and says her love for the sport is what motivates her.
''Honestly, I love it. It's just my life. I wouldn't want anything else. I always wanted to be at the highest level that I could,'' she said.
Amidst a list full of accolades and accomplishments, Vazquez struggles to over-indulge in her success, and instead places her focus on continuing to challenge herself and improve her skill set as a player.
''I think I recognize the success [that] I have, but I try not to dwell on it because I want to get to the next level,'' she said.
The young athlete is also attributes her success to the support of her family and friends, and her faith. Without it, she says, she would not have been able to be where she is today.
''Without them [parents] there's absolutely no way I'd be where I am today. They drive me to practice, prove the money [and] they give up their time. They're always the positive voice that directs me in the right direction,'' she said. ''Faith also plays a strong role in this. I go to a Catholic school, and if my parents don't have the answers, God always does. He's given me the talent and everything I need to succeed.''