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EYES ON THE PRIZE

Recovery from ailment helps Gonzalez not lose sight of ultimate goal

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EYES ON THE PRIZE

Nicholas Gonzalez is the Manteca Bulletin’s 2012 All-Area Soccer Most Valuable Player.

CHRIS LEONARD/LeonardPhoto.com/


POSTED December 28, 2012 1:22 a.m.

For Nicholas Gonzalez, turning in those jaw-dropping moves on a regular basis is something the Sierra High standout player will never take for granted. Because at one point, medical professionals thought The Bulletin’s All-Area Soccer Most Valuable Player would be in a wheel chair.

Gonzalez definitely was willing and able to dominate during the Sierra soccer season, leading the Timberwolves to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV semifinal after capturing a portion of the Valley Oak League championship.

Gonzalez’ play in the VOL earned him c o-MVP honors in a league that featured a dozen of the most exciting players in the area. His 14 goals and 10 assists in the regular season are both team highs.

“The VOL is a competitive league and I actually like how competitive it is because everybody has to bring their game to a lot higher levels,” Gonzalez said. “It really helps players bring out talent that they didn’t even know they had. That helps players advance in the sport itself and we all want that.

“I’d have to say there were like three to four players on every team that stood out to me.”

Standing out was what seemed like it would not be reality for Gonzalez at 8 years old. Gonzalez’ eye color changed at a moment’s notice and after a trip to the doctor he was referred to Children’s Hospital where he was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis. Medical staff informed the family he would likely be in a wheel chair within six months.

At this point Gonzalez was legally blind and had no interest in anticipating a life without sight and soccer. Gonzalez has perfect vision today, and the adversity that he experienced as a child, likely shaped the attitude and work ethic of the area’s best player.

“Soccer is not really easy, it just takes a lot of hard work and determination,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just like any other sport; you have to work hard and do your best and sometimes things work out for the best.

“It’s almost like things go your way because you’ve worked so hard.”

It would be impossible for Gonzalez to have the skill-set that he has without putting in the work. The Timberwolves came up short in their quest for the section crown, but the resiliency the team showed to earn a co-VOL title was rewarding enough. The next stage for Gonzalez will likely be at the collegiate level, but his aspirations in the game are aimed higher than the college ranks.

“With college, I want to take my game to the next level and just put forth my best effort,” Gonzalez said. “I’m hoping that soccer can take me far, I want to be able to go places in life with soccer.

“It really has just always been one of my dreams.”

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