Youngstown State University is no stranger to foreign student-athletes; there are three foreign members of the softball team, five on the women’s tennis team and the entire men’s tennis team. The soccer team has relied on Kathy Baquero, a Columbian native, to lead the team’s offense.
Baquero came to the U.S. nine years ago, where she attended American Senior High School in Miami, Florida. During high school, she set the school records for goals and assists.
“The culture is completely different. Over there, it is very family-oriented and here, you try to focus more on your future,” she said.
During the recruiting process, head coach Will Lemke became aware of Baquero’s journey — one that eventually led to her arrival at YSU.
“It was something we found out during the recruiting process, and something we discussed when we were getting to know her and learned about her background,” he said. “During the recruiting process, we learned about her personality and her ties to her family.”
Baquero is only a sophomore but has seen success during her first season with significant playing time. Last season was a different experience for the mid-fielder as she became aware of the talent level for college-athletes.
“It was a huge difference,” she said. “When I used to play in high school, I remember it was easy for me to do — my performance level came easily. Now when I came to YSU, it has been completely different. I have to work to perform the same way the other girls are performing.”
Last season, Baquero only played in 16 games, attempting just two shots and didn’t score a goal. Lemke said the lack of success was due to a change in scenery for Baquero — she experienced culture shock and needed to integrate herself into the university and the team.
“Last year was a big learning process,” Lemke said. “It was a big improvement from when she first started. She has a better mindset and her conditioning was better heading into this season.”
Baquero leads the Penguins in scoring and game winning goals, and her five goals are currently tied for fourth in the Horizon League. She scored the game winning goals in the previous two wins for the Penguins against University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Oakland University.
“I think it comes from my teammates and the way they perform. That helps me perform a lot better, so when it comes down to the right ball that they are playing, that’s how I’m able to score,” she said. “When they read the play the way it’s supposed to be played, that’s how I’m able to make the five goals.”
For most people, English is a difficult language to learn. While Baquero can speak English very well, she still needs to rely on her teammates and friends to translate for her when necessary.
“I struggled a lot with understanding English, and to this day, I still have my teammates helping me out with everything because it is hard for me to understand the translation,” she said.
If Baquero continues on her current pace, she could finish in the top 10 in goals and points for a Penguin during a single season.