Senior striker Jessica Zavalza’s ambitions extend beyond the soccer field.
In addition to the completion of her collegiate soccer career, the completion of the academic school year will see Zavalza with a degree in one hand and an MCAT study guide in the other.
Zavalza starred as a two-sport star at St. Margaret’s High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Besides her excellence on the soccer pitch, Zavalza also competed in track and field, running the 100-meter, 200m and 4x100m.
Coming to UH was a difficult transition for the Southern California native.
Having head coach Susan Bush, a Houston native, who played soccer collegiately at North Carolina, to lean on helped her acclimate.
“She knew how hard it was for me and we talked about it all the time,” Zavalza said. “She would show that she cared by showing concern and asking me if I needed anything.
“She has a very positive attitude. It keeps me motivated, especially this year, my last year.”
Being away from her family, her bond with Bush became even more important for Zavalza.
“My family can’t come and watch me play,” Zavalza said. “To have someone who is very close there is very special.”
Zavalza started playing soccer at the age of five, under the guidance of her dad.
Her dad is a fan of the Chivas Rayadas de Guadalajara, one of the most popular and successful clubs in Mexico. Chivas is a team recognized for their development of young players, a philosophy Zalvalza’s dad implemented in her youth.
“He was my first coach,” Zavalza said. “And growing up I was always active in the sport.
“When he would watch me — I knew I had to do my best, it drove me to be the player I am today and accomplish what I’ve accomplished so far.”
Unlike her father, Zavalza’s favorite team is not Chivas; rather, she has developed an admiration for FC Barcelona, a club synonymous with total football.
“The thing I like about Barcelona is that there is no individual,” Zavalza said.
“There will be an individual who stands out, but everyone plays a big role in the success of the team. I look at the forwards, they create their own chances and that’s what I want to do. I want to take people on.”
Zavalza currently leads the Cougars in goals and attributes much of her success to her teammates on the field.
“They set me up in good positions and they make my job easier,” Zavalza said.
“I feel that we are working really hard. We just pushed a nationally ranked team to a tough draw.”
Zavalza will get to work this Friday as UH visits Marshall at 6 p.m.
As for what she her plans to do after graduation, it’s not concrete yet but her aspirations are big, her drive even bigger and it’s an opportunity for her to do something until now she only did every summer.
“I want to go to medical school,” Zavalza said. “After graduating I’ll be enrolling in a few MCAT prep classes.
“This is a good opportunity to go home. I’ll see where I go from there but for now that’s my goal.”