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Ceres High grad blazing her own trail
Lucero Villasenor became the first graduate from Ceres High School to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship for women's soccer when she committed to Idaho State University on Dec. 11.

"It's kind of shocking," said Villasenor, who recently completed her sophomore season at Modesto Junior College. "It feels good. Everybody dreams about playing at that level."

"I'm thrilled for Lucero to have this opportunity," said Steve Aristotelous, Villasenor's coach for the past two seasons. "This will be a big change in her life if she sticks with it. She'll be the first person from her family to graduate from college."

Villasenor always envisioned herself playing soccer after high school, but abandoned her goal because of self-doubt. She didn't think she could handle the balance between academics and athletics.

During the year prior to enrolling at Modesto Junior College, Lucero worked at a fast-food restaurant and played indoor soccer.

"If it wasn't for him (Steve), I wouldn't be going to Idaho State," Villasenor said. "He's the one that pushed me. He's the one that said finish your schooling. I never thought I would."

Aristotelous convinced Villasenor to join his program after watching her play indoor soccer at a Stockton tournament. Lucero didn't sign-on rightaway.

"It took me a year to get her," Steve said. "I recruited her very heavily. I didn't give up on her. I knew she had the ability."

Lucero had a stellar sophomore season at Modesto Junior College, where she helped propel the Pirates to the Northern California Playoffs for the second year in a row and a 14-6-3 overall record.

The standout forward/midfielder also earned first-team, all-conference honors again. She had 14 goals and eight assists as Modesto Junior College finished in fourth place (6-5-3) in the eight-team Big 8 Conference.

Villasenor tallied eight goals and five assists during her freshman year.

"She helped spark our offense," Steve said.

It didn't take long for Idaho State University assistant coach Hideki Nakada to notice Lucero at practice during a California recruiting trip.

"He pointed out Lucero in 10 seconds," Aristotelous said.

Villasenor visited Idaho State University in October. She met players and coaches. Her tour also included a trip to Davis Field, site of home games for the Bengals.

"It was different," Lucero said. "It was snowing. It's a real nice community. Everybody is close there."

Idaho State University's women's soccer team made history by tying the school record for fewest losses in a season in 2007.

The Bengals went 7-5-6 and finished in fifth place in the Big Sky Conference (2-2-3).

League foes included Eastern Washington, University of Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona University, University of Northern Colorado, Portland State University, Sacramento State and Weber State.

"They have a good team. And they have my major (nursing)," said Lucero, who will live in university dorms. "I don't know if I'll be starting but I'll get playing time."

Lucero will say goodbye to her family in August.

"I think it (leaving her loved ones) will be a challenge, but it will be better for me in the long run," she said. "I'll go to school and play soccer."

"I'm happy for her," Aristotelous said. "She knows what she wants in life. She wants to get educated and get a better job."

Villasenor is blazing her own trail.

"My dad's the most excited," she said. "I want to do it for him."

Father Paul is her biggest fan.