By Lolie Mahe
Elvira Motuapuaka, star goalkeeper for City College’s women’s soccer team, continues to grow through every challenge both on and off the field finding inspiration and encouragement everywhere she goes.
When the season ended on November 11, Motuapuaka had allowed only eight goals in all 18 games, including 11 shutouts, “with very little goalkeeper experience,” Head Coach Jeff Wilson said.
A shutout in soccer is a game in which a team wins and prevents the opposing team from scoring at all.
Motuapuaka’s passion for the game of soccer started at the age of five when one of her earliest coaches would drive players to push themselves beyond their limits. She said he acknowledged how the game of soccer was not merely for fun, but to also build oneself as both a player in the game and as a person.
By her senior year at El Camino High, Motuapuaka said her passion for soccer began to decline. Soon therafter she enrolled into Skyline College in San Bruno.
But her sister Grace encouraged her to attend City College with her.
“She told me if I came to City College, the girls would make me want to play soccer again instead of simply focusing on my major,” Motuapuaka said.
Motuapuka, who is of Pacific Islander descent, said her mother’s immovable faith of her daughter’s ambition also stopped her from abandoning soccer.
“Mostly my mom helped me; she pushed us to play soccer at City College for more opportunities,” Motuapuaka said. “She’s been there my whole life and listening to her encouraging me to play soccer helped… She’s an inspiration to me with how hard she works… I kinda tried to give up a little, but my sister and mom saw my potential in playing for City.”
Motuapuaka said she was familiar with the negativity of different coaches, but attending City College was “very different for [her].”
Motuapuaka’s attentiveness and leadership caught Coach Wilson’s eye. “…She asks questions, leads by example whether with Coach Kyle Valentine or in a team exercise.. it has resulted in her quickly becoming one of the best goalkeepers in CCCAA.”
Learning the goalkeeper position, according to Motuapuaka, was complicated at first because she “…did not know the basic training for what it meant to be a keeper … Coach Matt and Coach Kyle, the main keeper trainer, helped me with the way it should look.”
Coach Wilson said Motupuaka’s tremendous work ethic has allowed her to continue to improve at the goalkeeper position. “It became easier with the encouragement of the coaches … they would tell me after making one mistake on the field, I could learn from it afterwards,” Motupuaka said.
Motuapuaka credits her success to the inspiration her teammates have given her both on and off the soccer field. Whether her teammates are younger or older than her, each of them pushes one another to stay focused and make mistakes that can be spoken openly to one another, she said.
Motupuaka’s reserved nature was challenged by joining the team. “One thing I really learned during the season was to use my voice for the girls because as a keeper, we are supposed to direct people with where to go. I’m very antisocial as a person, but on the field I’m supposed to be loud, direct, talkative, outspoken… that’s something I had to learn to do on the field.”
The determined student-athlete is still undecided about a major. However, the Emergency Medical Technicians program has caught Motupuaka’s attention. “I was trying to pursue becoming a firefighter, but when I got into an accident at a younger age, the EMT kinda saved me and inspired me to want to help people as they do.”
She added: “As an athlete, City College has helped me set up my classes for what is required for the major I want to get into. City College has actually talked to us and encourages us to speak to counselors that we have about problems outside or during school. They give us opportunities in sports to show ourselves for 4-year colleges. They teach us how to talk to coaches and put ourselves out there without being shut out from different opportunities.”
As the team looks ahead to the conference playoffs, Motuapuaka looks forward to the challenge and playing one last time with some of the girls who will be leaving the team. The Rams ended the season with an overall record of 14-3-1 and 8-1 in conference play.