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Biola bound: Unterholzner signs letter of intent
Joining Lia Unterholzner (bottom row, center) for her signing to Biola University Wednesday at Sierra Highs gym were parents Dara and Steve Unterholzner, and (top row, from left) principal Steve Clark, brother Danny Unterholzner, athletic director Anthony Chapman and vice principal Greg Leland. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Two Unterholzner siblings will be split by rival schools starting next fall.

Lia Unterholzner, a senior at Sierra High, signed a letter of intent to play soccer for Biola University's women's squad and will receive a partial scholarship. Her brother, Michael, is a freshman at Azusa Pacific, which is situated about 27 miles away from Lia's future home in La Miranda.

Unterholzner plays for the Pleasanton Rage under-18 Premier team to help prepare her for the next level. Her coach, Paul Sapsford, encouraged her to establish contacts with college coaches via email.

"About three months later they emailed me back finally," she said after signing in the main gym's foyer of Sierra. "A week later it just so happened that we were going down there for my brother's college orientation, so while we were there I trained with (Biola's team)."

Unterholzner could have ended up closer to home with a Division-I school, or with a ranked NAIA program that competes in the same conference as Biola.

The 5-foot-11 goalkeeper also received offers from Division-I St. Mary's of Moraga and The Masters College of Santa Clarita. She said the University of the Pacific also expressed interest.

All schools fit what she was looking for: a Christian-based university with a strong emphasis in academics, small student population and competitive women's soccer program.
Unterholzner's connection with the players and coaches at Biola helped her decision, and she said her chances are "pretty high" to get playing time as a true freshman because incumbent starter Erin Frushon is currently a senior.

The Eagles were 2-1 in the Golden State Athletic Conference and 5-5 overall as of Tuesday. Half of the 10 member schools of the GSAC are ranked in the NAIA: Azusa Pacific (3), Point Loma Nazarene (5), Westmont (12), Concordia (16) and The Masters (21).

"It's the best conference in the NAIA," Unterholzner said.

She will enter her third year as a varsity athlete in both basketball and soccer.

Her dad, Steve, coaches Sierra's varsity girls basketball team and is a chemistry teacher at Sierra. Lia - who carried a 4.1 grade point average going into the school year - plans on following in her father's footsteps to some degree, as she will major in biochemistry with a concentration in pre-medicine.

Last spring, Unterholzner allowed 23 goals and recorded 11 shutouts in 24 appearances at goal for the Timberwolves' Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV championship squad.

She had two clean sheets in three SJS postseason contests and was instrumental in the team's 2-1 overtime comeback win over favored Vista del Lago in the semifinals. Sierra went on to defeat Valley Oak League foe - and champion - Oakdale in the title round, 1-0.

Unterholzner had another big moment in a league match against crosstown rival East Union, stuffing a 1-on-1 breakaway in the final seconds of a 1-1 tie.

To contact Jonamar Jacinto, email, or call (209) 249-3538.