by John Philip Wyllie
With a name like Valderrama, you would expect Bonita Vista High School's 17 year old senior striker to be something special when she steps on to the soccer field. Although she is not related to legendary Colombian World Cup star, Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama, Lina Valderrama is indeed something special.
Prior to the start of the local scholastic season, Valderrama toured with Mexico's U-19 national team and represented el Tricolores against Guatemala and Costa Rica after opening the tour in Athens, Georgia versus the WUSA's Atlanta Beat.
While the Beat dominated the tour's opening match 5-0, Valderrama and her teammates gained valuable experience against some of the world's most heralded players. Ameri-ca's World Cup champions and Olympic Silver Medalists Cindy Parlow, Nikki Serlenga and Briana Scurry all play for the Beat.
"They were really fast and had a lot of skill," Valderrama assessed. "They were also really quick with the ball and had really good ball skills, but we kept up with them pretty well. We just need a little more work." It was not the first time that Valderrama has battled against players from America's national team, so having done it before, she was much more relaxed this time around.
Mexico rebounded in Vera-cruz with a pair of victories over Costa Rica (4-0, 3-0) and then continued their winning ways topping Guatemala 2-1 on the road. Valderrama trained for several weeks between the matches with the national team in Mexico City. She gained playing time in all four of the matches splitting time between the right and left flank midfield positions and she tallied one of the goals against Costa Rica. All of the games were played in preparation for the upcoming U-19 Women's World Cup which will take place in Canada in August of 2002. In order to get there however, Mexico must first qualify in May's preliminary tournament scheduled for Trinidad and Tobago.
Valderrama's immediate plans are focused locally. She is being counted on to help lead the Bonita Vista Barons to a CIF San Diego Section Division I crown. With a team full of returning starters, Valderrama is optimistic.
In order to balance international and scholastic soccer with her academic pursuits, Valderrama elected to go on home study this year. While she considers being separated from her high school friends a sacrifice, it is one she is willing to make to keep her dream alive. Her high school coach, Ronne Pietila-Wiggs, is pleased that Valderrama is making the effort to stay a part of her team.
"She's a great asset to our team," according to Pietila-Wiggs. "She is very creative, but she also has deceptive speed and moves. She has been playing a lot (for Mexico) in the midfield, but I think we will use her as a forward. We are glad to have her back."