Road to Vancouver: 'Profe Vane' overcomes obstacles

Ecuador, one of nine first-time finalists at the Women's World Cup, was the last team to book its ticket to Canada 2015. The Tri Femenina is coached by 25-year-old Vanessa Arauz, who will be the youngest coach at the tournament.

Arauz says going into coaching was a difficult decision.

"One of the most important and yet most difficult steps in my life was to make the decision to get involved in soccer," she said in an interview with the Conmebol Web site. "Saying important is understandable, but why difficult? Most of my male colleagues played and continued to play soccer. When they decided to play, no one said to them: "Hey, this sport is not for men. But in my case, many times I did hear: 'Hey, this sport is not for women.'"

Arauz got a job as an assistant coach in the national team program at the age of 21 after getting high marks at the Ecuador federation's coaching school.

"It was a surprise," she told La Hora after getting the head coaching job in 2013. "No one imagined what would happen when we were taking notes. They said I would be the assistant and I could not believe it."

Her players call her "Profe Vane" and often come to her for support. At one of her first long training camps, she gave a talk about the importance of family and the next thing she knew she had a bunch of players crying, saying they missed their mothers.

"A parent with two or three children goes crazy," she added. "Imagine having more than 30 girls with different personalities or moods."

St. John's freshman Mariela Jacome is one of three U.S.-based players Arauz named to Ecuador's team for its first trip to the Women's World Cup.

"Eight months before my father passed from cancer, he told me he wanted me to play at the highest level I could," Jacome said. "Now I have the opportunity to honor that dream and I'm extremely grateful for that."

A native of Kinderhook, New York, Jacome qualified to play for Ecuador through her late father, who hailed from the South American nation.

Canadian Alexandra Salvador of Alcorn State and Mabel Velarde, who played at SE Missouri, are also headed to Canada with the Tri Femenina.
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