OTHELLO — Nikki Velazquez is one of a dying breed. As three-sport athletes gave way to specialization and year-round focus in one arena, the Othello senior loves to get her game face on, no matter what the sport.
She plays left field for the defending 2A state champion softball team, wrestled to a state runner-up in the 130-pound class, and of course was the most prolific goal scorer in Huskies girls soccer history, setting the single-season scoring record (38) and single-game scoring record (6).
It’s the later that will take her to the next level and help finance her education to become a registered nurse. Velazquez signed a letter of intent to play soccer at Walla Walla Community College next season and play for third-year head coach Jordan Hacker.
“Nikki is an accomplished goal scorer. She has quality pace and athleticism,” Hacker said on the school’s website. “She is an intelligent player, she is crafty and looks to break teams down. She is natural in front of the goal and finds ways to get everyone around her involved. Nikki is a plug and play player and we are looking forward to having her step on the field and create scoring opportunities.”
Velazquez, a first team all-state, first-team all-CWAC selection, was one of 12 players in Hacker’s 2017 recruiting class.
“I think starting out in a smaller program will help with adjustment to college soccer,” Velazquez said. “I had offers from universities, but I think Walla Walla is a good fit. Not too many people have a chance to play right away as a freshman, and that was appealing.”
Velazquez said she can play wherever they need her, but she believes she will remain at the striker position as a primary goal scorer. The level change won’t be as drastic as some going from a 2A program to community college, because she has played summer ball for the Yakima United semi-pro team.
“Yakima United was ages 16 to 38, so I think playing at that level will prepare me for Walla Walla,” she said. “There’s always something I need to work on to get better. I can never settle where I’m at. I need to work on shooting ranges, being able to score with both feet, placement of the ball into the net … all that stuff.”
She has a pretty good start, coming off a senior season where she scored 38 goals, an average of 1.7 goals per game. On three occasions last season, she bent her corner kick in for a score.
As for the academic aspects, she already has a leg up on time management and multitasking as a three-sport athlete. But she is well aware she will have to focus in the classroom as well.
“I expect to be studying more. I struggle sometimes in school, so I’m working on getting a tutor,” she said. “We have mandatory study halls, so that will help me adjust too.”