SOCCER: San Benito's Yamasaki signs on to Cal State East Bay
- February 10, 2011
Over the past few years, Sara Yamasaki has attended several soccer camps at nearby colleges to not only improve as a player on the pitch, but to also take a finer look at their facilities.
It was her way of scouting the scouts, if you will. She knew she wanted to play soccer at the next level - she made that choice when she started playing year-round for her club team - it was just a matter of where.
"Just taking a closer look," Yamasaki said.
But when the San Benito senior took in a camp at Cal State East Bay last April, she discovered her interest in the Division II school was mutual.
As it turns out, they had been scouting her all along.
"They told me they had been watching me like six or seven times," Yamasaki said last week, moments before she put pen-to-paper and signed a letter of intent to the Hayward school.
"I had no idea," she added.
Yamasaki, a midfielder for the Balers who has also played at forward and fullback - a position she played while trying out within the elite Olympic Development Program - will begin to prepare for the fall soccer season as soon as San Benito's winter season is complete.
Soccer is a fall sport at the collegiate level, after all.
She'll be joining an East Bay team that compiled a 6-10-3 overall mark in just its second season since returning to the Division II level - twice as many wins as the year before. The Pioneers went 4-10-2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association as well, and will graduate just five players from next year's team, at least three of whom played at midfield.
Yamasaki said head coach Amy Gerace, who has coached CSUEB for the last 10 seasons, wants the San Benito mid to continue playing the position she's known for the last four years at the high school level.
"I think she'll develop very well, and with a little more work, she'll be an outstanding mid," said San Benito head coach Ben Alvarez, who has coached Yamasaki the last three seasons.
Alvarez said he initially noticed Yamasaki's defensive background when she was playing at midfield, but has since seen the senior develop into more of an attacking mid.
"I know the girls are a little faster (in college) and the game is a little faster, but Sara is only going to get better," Alvarez added.
Very much the facilitator for the Balers, Yamasaki has also deposited 29 goals to date as a four-year varsity member at San Benito. Her 12 goals as a junior led the team, while her throw-in attempts have set her apart from pretty much any other player in the area.
Averaging roughly 30 to 35 yards on any single throw-in attempt, Yamasaki has contributed six goals and more than 25 assists off her sideline heaves alone, including one assist that set up a Tori Perez header in Tuesday's game against Gilroy.
"I haven't seen anyone on any of the teams that we've played throw the ball like Sara," Alvarez said. "I don't know where she gets her strength, but we'll take it."
A three-time all-league selection, including her first year when she was named Freshmen of the Year, Yamasaki also played four years on the varsity volleyball team and has been a member of the Orchard Valley Sting 16U squad for the last several years. She also made the District II team in ODP, earning an invite to tryout for the state team in both 2006 and 2007.
All of it was enough for Cal State East Bay to take a closer look, much of it without the Hollister resident even knowing.
But trying to make an impression on a college soccer team without ever knowing if that impression is being accepted, Yamasaki was understandably shocked when she discovered CSUEB had been previously scouting her.
Unaware of interest from other prospective schools - her junior status prevented schools from initiating any contact - she began researching East Bay shortly after that April camp, and later set up an official visit in order to properly check out the campus, the stadium, the dorms, the team and coaches, and the "college life."
They all easily passed in Yamasaki's book, leading the Baler midfielder to make a verbal commitment in April of last year.
"And I really liked that it wasn't too far. I can still come home. I knew I wanted to stay in California," said Yamasaki, who later received some interest from Menlo, Dominican University in San Rafael and Cal State Stanislaus. Carrying a 4.17 grade-point average at San Benito High, Yamasaki plans on majoring in kinesiology while attending CSUEB.
"I liked the atmosphere," she added. "It was a real community campus."