FRESNO — Marissa Pacheco found the road to Palm Beach Atlantic University through Fresno City College.Pacheco is one of 10 Ram women’s soccer players transferring to universities to continue their soccer careers.
Fresno City College head coach Oliver Germond and assistants Drew Mattos and Brian Coulter pride themselves on recruiting from high schools throughout the Central Valley. Their choices have led to numerous Central Valley Conference titles over the last 12 years.
The Rams finished the last two seasons with a combined 34-13-3 record. After a 1-3 start last season, the Rams rebounded and were ranked No. 9 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Sixteen of 27 players managed a 3.0-or-better grade point average.
“I think we’ve won our conference 10 of the last 12 years. We’ve won it six years in a row now. And the last two years, we’ve been to the final eight. The year before that, we were in the state championships,” said Germond, the Rams’ coach since 2001.
Unlike universities, athletes competing in the community college level have two years eligibility.“We’ve been successful every year, but it’s a challenge because every year we’re losing half the team,” added Germond.
Pacheco, who played four years on the Hoover High School varsity squad, reports to Palm Beach Atlantic in Florida in August.
She also competed on Hoover’s girls lacrosse team, which was considered one of the section’s most formidable prep school teams alongside Bullard. In her senior year, Hoover defeated Bullard for the section Division III lacrosse title.
Despite an offer from California State University, Fresno for lacrosse, Pacheco decided on Fresno City College.“It’s been a blessing. I learned so much here, not only about soccer, but conditioning. And so much about life. I wouldn’t have changed my decision for anything,” said Pacheco, a 21-year-old midfielder.
Pacheco will major in nursing under a full-ride scholarship at Palm Beach Atlantic. The Palm Beach women’s soccer team competes in the NAIA Division II.
After submission of her soccer video to Palm Beach Atlantic, Pacheco received a response in 10 minutes.“I will be the first one to go on to college. My dad (Fortunato Pacheco) didn’t even go to high school. He went to school in México. My mom (Christine Pacheco) has an AA degree (Associate in Arts),” said Pacheco.
Pacheco signed with the Florida university without visiting the college. Her parents, Fortunato, a native of Tepic, Nayarit, México, and Arizona native Christine, and Marissa have never been to the east coast.Marissa said she will likely return to the Central Valley as a nurse.
Fellow midfielder Lesslee Hernández was also recruited to Palm Beach Atlantic.
Mireya Lyons was recruited by FCC from Edison High.
“I was planning to go to a UC just for school. The coach came over to me one day after one game, a good game against Bullard,” said Lyons, who will attend Newman University in Kansas.Lyons, a defender, thought collegiate soccer was not possible, but in the end, she was recruited on the spot.
“I was ready to give up soccer, but playing for city (Rams), it was a good move,” said Lyons, a psychology major.
Germond said without Mattos and Coulter, the team’s success would be differente.During the season, coaches make highlight videos showcasing the team’s hard work and play. The videos are then sent to universities for possible recruitment.
“Our goal is to win a state championship one of these years. We work hard to try and win every year, but it’s challenging. No matter how successful our program, there’s still a perception that we are just a community college and people don’t think that going to a community college is a good way to go,” said Germond.Germond also said coaches have a determining factor in the success of their operation. Three factors are athlete's grades, players transferring to universities and acquiring scholarships.“Almost all our sophomores got some sort of scholarship. And most of them got full rides,” said Germond.Germond, Mattos and Coulter also operate the Central California Heat, a Fresno-based, semi-pro women’s soccer team competing in the Women’s Premier Soccer League.Several Rams players are rostered on the Central California Heat.
Fresno City College soccer transfers, by position:/