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Vaneza Hoover's senior year at Ceres High School was filled with more downs than ups, A star pitcher in softball, Hoover got kicked off the team for an unspecified disciplinary reason. Her grade-point average dropped to 2.0. She barely graduated.

Hoover still managed to earned a full softball scholarship to Humboldt State despite her troubles.

Vaneza would have had to take the junior-college route had she not passed English and math classes during the summertime.

"I really wanted to do something with my life," Hoover said. "I'm the first one from my family to go to college. I have a lot of support behind me."

Vaneza's grateful for the opportunity Frank Cheek provided her.

Cheek, a 2009 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame selection, has had a tremendous amount of success at Humboldt State. He's directed the Lumberjacks to 1,050 victories, two national championships, five west region titles, 18 conference championships and 19 west regional playoff berths in 22 seasons. Coincidentally, Cheek used to coach wrestling at Ceres High. The Bulldogs won three section titles (1967-1969) in a five-year span under his guidance.

"He did take a chance on me," Hoover said. "He has a good heart. I want to show him I'm coachable, and I can win some ball games and succeed in the classroom. There's some good in me."

Hoover did all of the above during her freshman year at Humboldt State.

The right-handed pitcher compiled a 14-10 record with a 3.08 ERA, 17 complete games, three shutouts, 97 strikeouts and 67 walks in 163.2 innings.

She helped propel the Lumberjacks to a 32-23 overall record and fifth-place finish (21-15) in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Chico State edged out Humboldt State for the fourth and final berth to the CCAA Softball Championships.

One of five pitchers on the team, Hoover ascended to the top of the Lumberjacks' rotation. She split time at the No. 1 position with Gracie Perez.

"Knowing I was on full-scholarship made me want to work harder," Hoover said. "I wanted to prove to everybody I deserved to be here. I'm satisfied with how I did. I'm hoping I could do better and better each year."

Vaneza enjoyed a memorable homecoming when Humboldt State battled Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock. Her mom, dad, brother, sister and grandparents watched her play.

"That's the most nervous I've been the whole season," Hoover said. "My whole family was there."

Hoover and the Lumberjacks faced off against senior pitcher Jennifer Arnold and Cal State Stanislaus, April 16-17.

The two former Ceres High teammates communicated on Facebook leading up to the four-game series, which Humboldt State swept.

Vaneza outdueled Jennifer twice.

Hoover propelled the Lumberjacks to a pair of wins (6-2, 5-2). She gave up three earned runs and 11 hits with eight strikeouts in 14 innings.

"It was really awesome to play against another Bulldog," Vaneza said. "We were on the same team my freshman year of high school. I've always looked up to her."

Hoover has transformed herself into a model student-athlete.

Attending study hall every other day has paid dividends.

She obtained a 3.2 GPA while carrying 21 units last semester.

"That's the highest I've ever had," said Hoover, a recreation administration (liberal studies) major. "It makes me happy."

Hoover has grown up a lot since her trouble-filled senior year at Ceres High.

She regrets not being able to finish her prep career on a positive note.

Vaneza wanted to lead Ceres High to Sac-Joaquin Section and Valley Oak League titles.

Hoover no longer makes poor choices.

"A lot of people didn't expect me to graduate from high school and have the grades to make it up here," she said. "I probably didn't think it was realistic. But it was a goal of mine. It's motivation for me when someone thinks I'm going to fail. No matter how far you think you've gone downhill, you can always climb back. That's what I did."