As a freshman on Lake Zurich's varsity soccer team three years ago, Vanesa Abad was a tad nervous being on a field with a lot of talented, older players.
It wasn't so bad for Abad, really.
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The reason? Abad was good.
Abad has turned into a leader and role model, too.
Her physical skills and leadership qualities last year helped her earn a repeat selection to the Daily Herald All-Area team. She verbally committed to Ohio State University as a junior and has since signed her national letter of intent to play for the Buckeyes.
She's come a long way, in short.
"Freshman year, you're at the lower part on the pyramid," Abad said. "My first two years, I was the youngest on the team.
"Over the years, you learn to get better and stronger. Now I can help the girls that are younger than me. I just want them to adjust to being on the varsity."
As a junior, Abad led Lake Zurich with 15 goals and 6 assists. For her career, she has compiled 26 goals and 16 assists, mainly as a midfielder. This year, she might move up top as part of the Bears' offensive attack.
"Vanesa is an amazing player with great skill and great speed," Lake Zurich coach Michael Castronova said. "She was a co-captain last year as a junior and is a co-captain this year as a senior. She's a great leader, who leads by example. Vanesa is very encouraging and supportive toward her teammates, yet challenges them to do their best."
Abad leads by example whether it's on the field or off the field.
"It's really fun to lead the warm-ups and be a role model," Abad said.
She might be a nervous freshman all over again at Ohio State, but her decision to play Big Ten soccer fulfills a dream.
Ohio State won the Big Ten Conference tournament last fall.
"On Spring Break last year I met with Ohio State coach Lori Walker and checked out the campus," Abad said. "I thought the coaches were very supportive, and they can push me to be my best. It's challenging and intriguing to me."
She's familiar with the state.
"My family has lived in Ohio, and friends of the family live there," she said. "(Ohio State) also has my major (nursing)."
Abad believes her senior season will be another good one for Lake Zurich. The Bears won the North Suburban Conference last year and boast the return of their scoring star.
"We have the closest group of girls in all of the four years I've been here," Abad said. "We get along off the field and are all good friends. On the field, we give advice to one another and connect so well. If we can put things together, we should be able to go farther than last year."