California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Isabella Veljacic: forward, captain, leader, legend

Ryan Jorgenson
Graduate student Isabella Veljacic has played for the women’s soccer team for five years, and is described as a leader by players on the team.

Graduate student and forward on the Regals soccer team Isabella Veljacic was four years old when she first touched a soccer ball, and 18 years later, she is the Regals’ captain and going to go down as one of the best forwards in California Lutheran University history according to Head Women’s Soccer Coach Frank Marino. 

Veljacic started 57 games for the Regals throughout her career, scoring 30 goals, including the NCAA Championship-winning goal. 

Originally from Monterey Park, California, Veljacic said she was introduced to soccer when her parents enrolled her siblings and her in a program with the hopes of promoting athletics in their lives.

“The funny thing is, is neither of my parents were in competitive sports growing up. So that’s always kind of a joke with the family is that, you know, my parents were never really like the athletic types, but my siblings and I, we were super athletic,” Veljacic said. 

Though Veljacic said she tried several other sports, no sport felt as right as soccer. From early morning games to long tournament weekends, Veljacic said she made soccer an integral part of her life, and her love for the sport only grew with age. 

“I always just remember that the most fun I would have was, like, going to games with my parents and, like, being at tournaments,” Veljacic said. “I thought that was just really fun.”

Veljacic said she first learned about Cal Lutheran and its women’s soccer team as a junior at Schurr High School. At Schurr, Veljacic led the Spartans to their first California Interscholastic Federation semifinals game, which became a milestone for the Spartan girls’ soccer program. 

Marino said he distinctly remembers first meeting Veljacic, and immediately knew she would be a perfect fit at Cal Lutheran after watching her play. 

“I watched her play and she was really, really good…She had a really, really good club coach that I know really well; Rafa. He spoke highly of her not only as a player, but as a person. I was super impressed…She was a really good fit for the program,” Marino said. 

As a high school senior, Veljacic said she searched for a school where the soccer culture was exciting and welcoming, and where she could develop academically and professionally. According to Veljacic, Cal Lutheran was just that.

“I really liked the school without soccer, like not thinking about soccer, I really liked that…and it’s also not too far away from home,” Veljacic said. “And then I also really liked our coach, Frank. He had really good communication with me, and he also was in communication with my club soccer coach when I was in high school,” Veljacic said.

According to Marino, Veljacic did not play much during her first two seasons with the Regals. However, he said that changed during her junior year, as she was scoring goal after goal and giving inspirational speeches before every game. 

“[Veljacic] went from not starting and not playing a lot over a few years to just outworking the people in front of her to say ‘I’m going to be the starter, and I’m going to play a lot, and I’m going to do it with my hard work, and continue to improve, and continue to get better.’ She’s going to go down as probably one of the best forwards in Cal Lutheran history,” Marino said.

Junior midfielder and co-captain Adriana Maroney said Veljacic’s passion for the sport is inspiring and heartwarming for herself and her teammates. 

“She gives the best pre-game speeches and she just motivates in ways that come from the heart, which I think is a really special thing to see, and it’s one of my favorite things,” Maroney said.

Graduate student and midfielder Eden Quiroz said Veljacic’s relentless pursuit for greatness within the sport helps create a sense of community that she did not see at UC San Diego, where she played during her undergraduate years. Quiroz said Veljacic’s passion pushes everyone on the team, especially younger players.

“I love her. She’s so sweet. She’s a great leader. And I think one thing that stands out to me is just like her passion for the game. I feel like for four years now, five years, she’s had the same love for the game…She just has this drive and it’s incredible,” Quiroz said.

Despite the grade differences between Veljacic’s teammates and her as she is now a graduate student, Veljacic said she never found it difficult to click with the undergraduate students, nor did she feel left out. Likewise, her teammates said they always viewed her as charismatic, kind and loveable.

“She just kind of took care of me like a big sister,” Maroney said. “She’s really hard working. She is always doing something to improve her game or improve ways to be a captain. I would also say she’s really kind. She takes care of everyone around her. We all call her basically the mom of the team.” 

As a graduate student, Veljacic said her workload has been easier to manage than her undergraduate days, which is a sentiment shared by Quiroz. Both Veljacic and Quiroz said they only have one day of classes a week, and dedicate the rest of their time to working and practicing their sports.

Veljacic said she has no regrets with dedicating so much of her time to soccer, but if she could give a piece of advice to her 18-year-old self, she would want her to live in the moment and have more fun both socially and within the sport itself.

“I feel like I was a freshman only a year ago,” Veljacic said. “So I would say, yeah, don’t take it too seriously and just have a lot of fun, and don’t take any opportunity for granted.”

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  • J

    JohnDec 8, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    We’re so proud of you Bella!

  • J

    Joyce BecerraDec 5, 2023 at 11:45 am

    Wow ! Bella is just as sweet , and lovely as she is determined and excellent in her God -given talents as a Soccer superstar! So proud to know you and cheer for you as you use this platform to inspire and encourage other young women .

  • C

    ChandyDec 5, 2023 at 10:52 am

    Bella, thank you for being an inspiration and great influence to all of your teammates, especially Adri. I know she will miss you by her side.

    And thanks for scoring that beautiful game winning goal in the finals!!