With a special place in her heart for kids with learning disabilities, Rebecca Berry wants to become an elementary or special education teacher. Berry chose La Verne for the financial aid package she was promised, the soccer program and its well respected teaching program. Berry, one of 11 freshmen on the team, led her team in goals scored with seven.
She is competitive, aggressive, confident and humble. All of these are freshman forward Rebecca Berry. These traits are what every soccer player strives to be. However, there may be one trait besides these that makes Berry unique and puts her over the top of her competition.
Berry, who stands at a modest 5’ 3” tall, came to the University of La Verne from Upland High School. The talented freshman has made a surprising impact for the ULV women’s soccer squad, scoring seven of the team’s 19 goals this season, many of them coming in key situations.
Berry began playing soccer in fifth grade when she was 10 years old.
Throughout her adolescent years, she developed a love for the sport and continued to play in high school where she made the varsity squad as a sophomore.
Then things took a turn.
During her first varsity year on the high school team, Berry noticed the lack of discipline and organization that existed among the team. She noticed that some girls were being treated as favorites, which left her and others feeling uncomfortable.
“A lot of girls just sucked up to her,” Berry said, referring to her 21 year old varsity coach. “She would just make unfair exceptions.”
By her senior year, Berry had grown older and mature. She never felt comfortable with her situation at Upland and never developed a bond with her coach. One day, during a practice, Berry again noticed unfair treatment to her and other players on the team and decided to say something.
“I was sick of it and I just told her how I felt,” Berry said. “If something is not right, I will say something.”
Berry quit the team that day but also felt a type of self-liberation. She felt mature for sticking up for what she believed in and did not regret her decision despite her team advancing to the playoff quarterfinals that year. Berry noted that the issue was not a lack of playing time but just simply lack of having fun.
“It made me feel really good about myself,” she said. “High school was not enjoyable.”
Berry turned her focus to her club team, the Claremont Stars. Here is
where she loved to be and where soccer was fun. It was also where colleges sought the talented high school senior. Cal Baptist was the first to come knocking, recruiting Berry aggressively towards the end of her senior year.
“They were my No. 1 choice because of their soccer team, and they offered me money to play there,” she said.
An official visit to the school to see the soccer team play one day turned up empty, literally. Berry arrived to field at the time and date that the coach at Cal Baptist indicated only to find out the game had been canceled.
“The coach just flaked out on me,” she said. “It was not a warm feeling at all.”
With Baptist out of the question, Berry put in a call to ULV head coach Wendy Zwissler. The rest was history, as Berry immediately felt comfortable with this new situation, a feeling similar to her club team.
“It was totally a 100 percent different feeling with Wendy,” Berry said.
“She got me excited to go here…everyone seemed to be really comfortable with each other.”
Berry’s freshman year was off to a rocky start when she was moved to left forward from center midfielder at the beginning of the year. Forward was something new to her, it required speed and more offensive skill.
“I started crying at practice one day because I did not know what to do,” she said. “They don’t play me at forward for my speed… it is because of my feet, I distribute the ball well.”
Fellow freshman defenseman Kelly Frey agrees that Berry makes things happen but can also control balls for longer periods of time due to her composure when under pressure.
“She collects the ball and just holds on to it,” Frey said. “She can always do something good with it.”
All agree that Berry has handled the pressure well and has made a mockery of any transition period between high school/club to college competition. However, she did struggle initially with the physical factor between the levels.
“She got tossed off the ball early in the year,” Frey said. “She has learned to really use her body to block the ball.”
Composure has been another key asset to Barry succeeding so quickly and at such a young age.
“I never expected to see someone so relaxed,” junior goalkeeper Lauren Britt said. “She is very aggressive and very confident… it helps the other girls on the team relax.”
As a freshman, Berry has exceeded any expectations anyone may have had especially considering the amount of players the team lost from last year’s squad. Berry is one of 11 freshmen on the team this year. Senior captain and forward Nataly Clavel pointed out that Berry was a surprise but also noted the play of other freshman players as well.
“We expected a lot out of our freshman this year,” Clavel said. “We are glad that everyone met expectations, not just Rebecca.”
One skill that Berry has that not many others do is a left footed shot. Like a left handed specialist coming out of the bullpen in baseball, when Berry uses her left foot she surprises opponents, most of them who have never seen Berry in competition before.
“She has that left foot that nobody else has,” Frey said.
Britt also explained that her left foot was the first skill or trait that was important but noted that her confidence in her abilities is what really sets her apart from others.
“She has a very powerful strike from the outside,” Britt said. “Most of us are not confidant enough to do that.”
The left foot, confidence and aggressiveness are all what makes Berry a great player between the lines. Her demeanor outside the lines is what makes her special.
“Her attitude is great and she is always positive,” Britt said.
The freshman forward’s impact on the field and ability to score goals when they mean the most is unparalleled. In the fifth game of the year, she scored the game-winning goal in the 89th minute to break a scoreless tie and propel her team to a victory over Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
“That goal was the most meaningful to me,” Berry said. “I was so shocked.”
She was involved in every goal in a mid-season SCIAC game against Cal Lutheran, knocking home a goal and assisting on two others in a 3-2 victory.
Two games later, Berry scored both goals in a 2-1 triumph over Cal State East Bay in a home match up. She scored ULV’s only two goals in a 5-2 loss to Cal Lutheran recently and was responsible for the game-tying goal against non-conference rival Chapman University two weeks ago.
Her attitude has been incredible, her skill unbelievable and her impact undeniable. All of this has come so quickly for Berry, the 17-year old freshman. She credits her parents, especially her father, for all the inspiration and support in guiding her to where she is today.
“He wanted to be as involved as he possibly could,” Berry said. “He has always been supportive of me through high school and everything I went through.”
Berry and ten other talented freshmen are being groomed for future seasons at La Verne in hopes they can compete for SCIAC championships in the coming years.
“I am so excited for next year, I know we will be better,” Berry said.
As confident as she is, that could be bad news for future opponents.
Steven Falls can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.