Oct. 19, 2001
By Drew McGuire Milam
Editor in Chief
Ynez Carrasco spent her first four years spiking balls over the net, now she hopes to spend her last year keeping the ball out of the net.
The fifth-year senior started for the volleyball team, in a sport she had played all her life, now she finds herself in unfamiliar territory, protecting the net in a sport she has never played.
The idea started when Carrasco was working in the soccer trailer last year, what started as a joke between the coaches and the stand-out volleyball player, turned serious when Assistant Coach Eric Yamamoto, the men's and women's goalkeeping coach, started working with her.
"Yamamoto started joking about me being a keeper next year, I went along with it, because I thought he was just saying it because I was tall, but I had never played soccer," Carrasco said. "Not to mention, I had played four years of volleyball, so I thought I had lost my eligibility."
The NCAA allows five years of athletic eligibility, but only four in one sport. So by playing a second sport, Carrasco was able to take advantage of her final year of eligibility.
After a week of joking around the soccer trailer, Carrasco called the coach on his joke and they started working together.
"[Yamamoto] floated the idea past me, he had been talking to [Carrasco] and it is a project that he has always wanted to undertake," Head Coach Jerry Smith said. "Take an incredible athlete, like [Carrasco], who really doesn't know that much about soccer or the goalkeeping position and see how good she can be in a short period of time."
Carrasco made the decision to use her last year of eligibility as a soccer player at the end of last year and spent all summer at soccer camps with junior high school girls.
"[Carrasco] is a very quick learner and has picked up soccer quickly. Not only has she never played goalkeeper, but she has never played soccer, which poses another problem," Yamamoto said. "Just learning the game and the eye-foot coordination is very important. She is coming along in those areas, she is an extremely hard worker, outstanding athlete and a great learner. It has been very enjoyable working with her."
The goalkeeper position has been shared most of the year between junior Erin Sharpe and freshman Alyssa Sobolik. Although Carrasco isn't ready to start competing for the starting position, helping a newcomer has benefited both sides.
"It's actually a learning experience for us too, because it's interesting, we don't think about the very fundamental things, like breaking down the position as much as she needs to. So through her, we learn too," Sharpe said. "It's really fun to see how much she has grown, her work ethic and her heart and everything is awesome."
Coming to the team with no soccer experience, Carrasco has played more of a leadership role with a very young team.
"She brings a great work ethic, great leadership skills, in terms of pushing the team through physical training, or getting up for an opponent," Smith said. "She has been a strong asset to our program, even though she hasn't played that much."
Before the Oct. 5 overtime victory against Stanford, Carrasco spoke up at the end of the team meeting.
"I told them we have to beat Stanford, because in my four years playing volleyball we had never beat them," Carrasco said.
Last week, Carrasco got her first playing time against Fresno State, already up 5-1, she finished up the last 12 minutes of the game, getting one touch.
"Coach Smith very casually walked up and told me to get ready and turned around and walked away, I thought he was joking," Carrasco said. "Everyone on the bench was cracking up at me, they said I had the look of sheer terror, all the girls were telling me to get ready and warm-up."
"I thought it would be really weird, and it was weird," she said. "But it was just like practice."
Carrasco got her second taste of playing time this past weekend against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. Leading 8-0, Carrasco completed the shutout that Sharpe started by closing out the final 13 minutes, that included a punt and a pass.
The all-time kills leader at Santa Clara, 2000 WCC Volleyball Player and Defender of the Year, is still planning on continuing her volleyball career in Europe. Carrasco has the option of joining a European volleyball tour in January, but may decide to put it off until September.
"This soccer experience is awesome, but I miss just going out there and not having to think about playing and every move that I have to do," she said.