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Vega one step away from national team

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer

For the last two years, junior Brandi Vega has been showing Carson High School devotees why she’s been named to the All-Sierra League team as a point guard in basketball and the Sierra League Offensive Player of the Year for the league-champion Senators’ soccer team.

Whether it’s on the court or on the pitch, the 5-foot-3 Vega has been an electric presence, the kind of difference maker that catches a spectator’s eye and leaves her flustered opponents in the dust.

The 16-year-old Vega recently took her game to Moscow, Idaho, where she was one of 120 girls to attend the 2007 United States Youth Soccer Region IV Olympic Development Program (ODP) camp.

Beginning July 18, Vega went through what amounted to a six-day soccer battle royal and was one of 41 players named to the 1990 Region IV player pool.

The pool (there are four regions in the U.S.), which is comprised of players born in 1990, represents the best players on the West Coast, including Nevada, California, Alaska, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico.

Vega, the only girl from the state of Nevada to be named to the 1990 player pool, will now have a shot at making the U17 Women’s National Team pool later in the year. Vega will turn 17 Nov. 28.

“It took a lot out of me,” said Vega, who advanced through district and state pools to reach the camp. “It was mentally tough and physically challenging. There was more to it than just playing. It was about overcoming adversities.”

A typical day at the camp would involve three sessions, including one with 13-girl teams competing against each other, one pitting seven-on-seven and a night invitational game, including a half-game against a 1991 Region IV ODP team.

“There were girls getting hurt because it was so physical out there,” said Vega, who worked with Washington State women’s soccer coach Matt Potter and California’s Jennifer Thomas during the camp. “It’s different from high school soccer. In high school, it’s fun. This is serious. Everyone is fast; everyone is physical. There were no weak players. You have to show what you have.”

Potter said Friday he couldn’t make comment without his camp notes and Thomas was unavailable for comment, but CHS girls soccer coach Randy Roser was able to provide some context to Vega’s growth as a player since last season, when she scored 14 goals and had eight assists for the Senators (she now has 23 goals and 23 assists in her two years on the varsity team).

“I’m seeing a huge difference in her style of play,” said Roser, who added that Vega would likely move to forward this season. “She’s a different player from last year. Physically, she’s put on more muscle mass. I saw her in Boise for a U.S. Club U17 Region (game) and everyone there stopped what they were doing to watch (Vega).

“(The other team) would go to a double-team and she’d deliver the ball to someone else. She brings a pizzazz to a game.”

Vega also plays for the Capital Athletic Casa Boca junior team in Sacramento, something Roser said has further sharpened her skills.

“Casa Boca is one of the nation’s top clubs,” Roser said. “Everyone on the team is high-level. Everyone they play against is a top-college recruit. Both her coaches (at Casa Boca) are working on her with finishing (goals as a forward). She pretty well scores every game or gets an assist and causing a goal to happen.

“She definitely makes an immediate difference when you put her on the field. She’s a very athletic kid, obviously. We’ve been working on her movements the last couple of years.”

If the past is any indicator, Vega should be further heartened by being named to the 1990 Region IV player pool. Eleven of the 41 players from the pool were selected to last year’s U17 Women’s National Team pool.

“Like anybody, I wanted to perform to the best of my ability,” Vega said of the camp. “It was rough, the way they scrambled all those different teams from different states. I was impressed when I got there. I was, ‘Wow. I’ve never seen anything like this.’

“It was challenging. It got you out of your comfort zone. Then you play on a team with girls you don’t know and against teams you know nothing about and see if you can play. It’s about how well you can do out there. They’re just so tough. And most of the girls adjusted to it.”

Forty-one of them did, anyway. And only one from Nevada in Vega, who will be waiting for a call in October – a call that will give her a chance to compete at the next level and perhaps beyond.

With posters of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain adorning her walls since she was young, Vega, who credited Roser, Cesar Palencia (of Casa Boca), Potter and Thomas for her development, has always harbored a goal to play for Team USA in the Olympics.

“I think this is opening up some more doors for me,” Vega said. “I think this is opening up college for me. Every day I get closer and closer. It’s still a dream (getting on Team USA). I hope it comes true.”