By scott Campbell Staff writer
Rose Vandenberg is chasing her dream.
And, as is the case in so many of those pursuits, her dream is taking her to a place she never would have dreamed of just a short time ago. Fresno State University.
After just one season at UCLA, Vandenberg, a former standout soccer player at San Benito, has decided that her quest for excellence on the field and happiness off it will be better realized by transferring to Fresno State.
“I’m very excited about the possibilities of what could come,” said Vandenberg, who will enroll at her new school immediately and join the Bulldogs in time for spring practice. “I just feel like it’s a better fit for me as a person. I have a lot more opportunities there to shine than I did at UCLA.”
While a number of factors beyond soccer contributed to her decision to transfer, Vandenberg made the decision knowing that Fresno State offered her one simple thing that UCLA could not—the chance to make an impact.
Despite being a member of the premier women’s programs in the nation—UCLA has played in the Final Four the past three seasons and finished as national runner-up the last two—Vandenberg came to realize that she wanted more out of her collegiate experience. After playing in just one of the Bruins 26 games, Vandenberg knew she needed to take a hard look at her future at UCLA.
“I want to play,” said Vandenberg. “I want to have my part in that day’s win or loss. [Bruins head coach Jillian Ellis] just didn’t see me getting significant playing time in the next three years. I want to have a part in owning the wins and losses and I can’t just sit and ride the winning train when I’m not taking any part in the winning.”
When she committed to UCLA as a junior at San Benito, Vandenberg knew she would be a part of a star-studded recruiting class and would join one of the nation’s elite teams. But she still thought that her hard work would earn her the chance to play.
“I knew I was going in as an underdog,” said Vandenberg. “I knew I wasn’t the top player they were bringing in. I expected to have to work twice as hard as any other player to make my way. But I thought at the same time … that maybe [Ellis] would be looking at us on the basis of how we’re playing on that day and on the field throughout the week to make her decisions for playing time.”
One of a group of ten talented freshmen, Vandenberg pushed herself in practice, hoping that her perseverance would pay off as the season unfolded.
There were some encouraging early results, including winning the coveted yellow jersey following an early-season practice. Ellis, inspired by Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France feats, offered the carrot of a yellow jersey for the most valuable player of each practice.
Vandenberg spoke of her emotions upon landing the honor.
“I was really excited,” recalled Vandenberg. “Not many of us freshmen [got it], so it was a cool thing. I didn’t think it would happen this year.”
But after only playing in the Bruins’ Sep. 18 contest against Saint Mary’s (CA) and facing the reality of another vaunted recruiting class next season that would keep her on the bench, Vandenberg made the decision to move on.
Just weeks away from joining her new teammates, Vandenberg spoke of being at peace with where she came from and where she is going to.
“I know it all happens for a reason,” said Vandenberg. “Coming out, I probably wouldn’t have even looked at Fresno. It just opens my eyes to what’s really important to me in life and what I wanted from my experiences. [UCLA] helped me grow up and know what I wanted. I think it was a good experience and it was awesome to be a part of that. I’m never going to look back and have a regret.
“What I went through this year was hard … but I know this is the path God is taking me through and I needed to get there to make the decision that I’m making now to go to Fresno. I think, ultimately, that’s where I’m meant to be.”