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Serina Vargas ends Rio Hondo career as Athlete of the Year

WHITTIER — After concluding an outstanding two years on the Rio Hondo College women’s soccer team, Serina Vargas has been named the Female Athlete of the Year for 2019-20.


The award was voted on by all of the Roadrunner coaches, and they felt Vargas was an outstanding person to nominate with academics playing an important role.


Vargas, a forward, helped lead the team to an undefeated South Coast Conference championship (8-0) and scored 10 goals and added three assists.


But, more importantly, Vargas maintained a high level in the classroom and graduated with an Associate degree in criminal justice with an overall 3.89 GPA.


The team qualified for its sixth consecutive post season appearance last year.


“I’m star-struck and didn’t know I was nominated for (the award),” Vargas said. “There are so many other sports and It’s crazy to me. I really did work hard.”


Vargas, who graduated from West Covina High in 2017 and was a three-time team MVP, reflected on her two years at Rio Hondo.


“My two years I spent at Rio playing for the women’s soccer team were the best years of my academic career so far,” Vargas said. “Playing at Rio made me strive to be the best I can be. It taught me (that) with success comes failure and with failure comes lessons to be learned.


“It made me into a better individual because I know what I am capable of and I know that I can do anything if I just put in the time and effort. It was bittersweet leaving Rio Hondo, but I have made life-long friends and coaches and created so many memories I will never forget!”


Vargas also remembers how close-nit the team was during her time at Rio.


“We weren’t just a team, we were a family that had a connection that showed on and off the field,” Vargas said. “From the coaches, to the players and to the parents who supported us, each and every single one played a significant role.”


She continued, “…..My team showed commitment, diligence and dedication each and every day, which helped lead us to achieve undefeated league champs. Another way we jelled as a team was due to the bonds we created.”

Vargas, who is currently attending Cal Poly Pomona and majoring in Political Science, made the honor roll every semester and held a 4.0 GPA in three of those semesters.


She is hoping to walk on to the soccer team at Poly.


For her effort, Vargas was named to the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) All-Academic State team both years.


“She has been a model student-athlete with her tenacity in the classroom and her efforts on the field,” Rio Hondo Women’s coach Jennifer Tanaka-Hoshijo said. “She is motivated and has always done well academically and is a hard worker.


“(Serina) plays with passion and is a most tenacious worker and scored some key goals for us. We feel very fortunate to have had her for two years.”


Her numbers include: 19 career goals, six assists, 37 games (started 31) and two-time All-SCC First Team.  


Vargas remembers a couple games in particular over the last two seasons.



Serina Vargas was selected as Rio Hondo College’s 2019-20 Female Athlete of the Year. (Photo by Keith Durflinger)


“The first time we played Cerritos, we got smoked big time,” said Vargas, of the seven-time state champions. “We beat them this year and it was the best feeling.


That victory guaranteed the SCC title and an undefeated season for the Roadrunners.


“I’m short, but I’m feisty and I was determined to make the plays.”


Rio Hondo teammate, Janessa Gallardo, spoke of Vargas’ award.


“I’m just so proud of her,” said Gallardo, who is a sophomore Midfielder for the Roadrunners. “She always has a good attitude – on and off the field.


“She always finds a way to score and she’ll shoot from the toughest angels and scores. The chemistry definitely shows on the field. It makes a difference.”


Vargas has two brothers who also play soccer – older brother, Nickolas played and graduated from West Covina in 2014 and younger brother, Jacob, is currently a sophomore and also plays football.


She had to be tough!


Serina Vargas started playing soccer at the age of four and once she got to high school, her play and academics took front and center stage for the 4’-11” spark plug.


She was a four-year varsity player, which included the most versatile player as a freshman, All-League academic award as a junior and Hacienda League MVP as a senior. Vargas was also one of the top five student-athletes in the league and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.


Vargas also gives credit to current West Covina girls’ soccer coach and Rio Hondo assistant coach, Will Lopez, for her success.


“Will changed my life,” Vargas said. “We won a few games (prior to his arrival) and when he got to West Covina, we were undefeated in the Hacienda League.”


Vargas also started her college career at Chico State, but decided to come back home and Lopez was instrumental in her becoming a Roadrunner.


And the rest is history!




Tanaka-Hoshijo named SCC Fall Woman’s Coach of the Year


Tanaka-Hoshijo, entering her 13th year as head coach for the Roadrunners this season, helped guide the team to a No. 10 national ranking and ended a 13-year SCC title reign by Cerritos College with a big win over the Falcons.


The award was voted on by the athletic directors of the South Coast Conference member colleges.


Eleven post-season awards were garnered by the Roadrunners, including the offensive (Vivian Viramontes) and defensive (Brianna Valdez) players of the year.


“We have a great coaching staff and I am very proud of that,” Tanaka-Hoshijo said. “The recognition is great, but it’s about the team.”


Tanaka-Hoshijo is very proud of the high percentage of student-athletes moving on to the next level.


“Eight eight percent of our sophomores have moved on to four-year colleges in my 13 years,” she said.




Team earns eighth consecutive academic award


Rio Hondo, with the second-longest streak among community colleges in the nation, the women’s soccer program was awarded the Academic Team Award from the United Soccer Coaches Association.


United Soccer Coaches, the largest soccer coaches association in the world, annually celebrates the academic achievements of high school and college soccer teams whose student-athletes collectively demonstrate a commitment to excellence in their studies over the course of a full academic year.


College Team Academic Award recipients are active members of the United Soccer Coaches College Services Program with a composite grade point average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale for all players on the roster.


Tanaka-Hoshijo is also proud of the teams’ academic success. “One of the goals was not only winning the top academic award, but also on the field.” She added.

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