Jenna Zuniga won’t soon forget this Christmas present.
The East Union senior received an unexpected text message from Stanislaus State women’s soccer coach Gabriel Bolton during winter break. Her longtime friend Ilena Rivera had already committed to the Warriors at this point, but for Zuniga her future was unclear. She was being recruited by Nevada and Pacific her sophomore year, but both programs underwent coaching changes.
“Stanislaus just came at the right time,” she said.
Zuniga visited the Turlock campus two days before Christmas Eve and met with Bolton. It didn’t take long for her to make a decision.
“A couple of days later I committed,” Zuniga said. “He said, ‘Awesome! Welcome to the family.’”
On Tuesday, she made it official. Joined by family, friends and her basketball teammates at the East Union library, Zuniga signed her National Letter of Intent. She plans on majoring in kinesiology and aspires to be an athletic trainer.
“It was like a huge weight lifted off our shoulders and it’s a relief knowing that I’ll be closer to home,” Zuniga said, giving a “shout-out” to parents Joy and Mario Zuniga. “With the learning environment and soccer environment, it was a perfect fit for me.”
Stanislaus State has been competitive in the NCAA Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association. The Warriors reached the conference semifinals last fall and finished with a 13-7 overall record.
Zuniga will be welcomed by familiar faces. Included on the roster are Isela and Isabella Rivera — both juniors and Ilena’s older sisters. The quartet led East Union to Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championships in the spring of 2014. The Lancers claimed league and SJS Division III titles the following year.
“It’s going to be fun,” Zuniga said of her reunion on the pitch with the Riveras, namely Ilena. “We’ve been playing with each other since the third grade. The chemistry will always be there and I think we’re going to do well in college.”
Zuniga accumulated 18 goals and 27 assists in her three-year career at East Union. With the girls soccer season shifting from the spring to the winter in the SJS, Zuniga opted to a break from the sport to play basketball.
“It’s my senior year and I needed to make it as fun as possible,” Zuniga said. “I already knew that I was already going to play soccer (in college), so it was just perfect timing for basketball.”
Timing for Zuniga has been everything.