Heritage soccer Coach Betsy Munson didn’t know what to believe. On April 1, her best player, Giovanni Vasquez, told her he had just committed to play for the University of Maryland. Then he said, “I’m just kidding. April Fools.” And then: “But no, really, I did commit to Maryland.”
Flummoxed by the goal-scoring jokester, Munson felt compelled to investigate the matter.
“I talked to our assistant AD and was like, ‘Gio said he committed but I don’t know if he’s joking,’” she recalled. “And he was like, ‘Ah, it’s just an April Fools joke.’”
Still not convinced, Munson sought out the one true roadmap to any teenager’s life these days: his Twitter page.
Vasquez, a junior striker for Heritage, got his first official college offer last month in Texas, where Maryland coaches watched him compete in the Dallas Cup with his club team, Loudoun 98 Red. He took an overnight visit to College Park on March 31 and committed to the Terps the next day.
“I think they’re the best soccer program in the nation, and I know they’re going to help me get to the next level,” Vasquez said. “I want to go pro, and I know they will help me accomplish that.”
Texas wasn’t the first place where Maryland coaches took a liking to Vasquez. They first saw him play last December in Wilson, N.C., where Vasquez scored two goals to wipe away his Loudoun 98 Red team’s 2-0 deficit, then recorded an assist to secure a 3-3 tie.
Vasquez’s affection for Maryland grew when he took an unofficial visit to College Park, but it wasn’t the campus that swayed him most. It was soccer practice.
“I knew when I watched the training that that’s what I wanted to become,” Vasquez said. “From the first player to the 26th player, everybody put in the same amount of work. They helped each other get better. That’s what triggered me the most.”
In Maryland, Vasquez chose a perennial Division I power that has risen to great heights over the last decade. Sasho Cirovski, entering his 24th season as head coach this fall, has guided the Terps to three NCAA championship game appearances and two national titles over the last 11 years. Last year Maryland won Big Ten regular season and tournament titles in its inaugural season in the league.
In Vasquez, Maryland gets a highly skilled attacking player with a knack for scoring in the clutch. After sitting out three weeks with a hamstring injury, Vasquez returned for Heritage last Friday to deliver the winner in a 1-0 triumph over Loudoun County, then netted the 90th-minute dagger in a 2-1 victory for his club team the next day.
“You get the ball to him, and you’re just very comfortable that he’s eventually going to break down that back line and get one,” said Munson, now in her ninth season at the Heritage helm. “He wants the ball. He’s so good under pressure situations.”
Vasquez’s dedication to his high school team is impressive considering the quality of his club team. Loudoun 98 Red, which also features Briar Woods goalkeeper and Virginia commit Colin Shutler, currently sits eighth in the country in the U17 rankings. Midfielders Ryan Pyszka and Kosta Nika also pull double duty for both teams, giving Heritage (6-0-1) one of the most imposing attacking units in the area.
With his college decision already under his belt, Vasquez can now turn his full attention to a streaking Heritage side seeking its first Virginia 4A West region title this year. His 34 career varsity goals leave Vasquez two away from the Pride’s all-time scoring record, just one more accolade in a spring he won’t soon forget.
“We’re trying to make history for our school, and so far we’re doing it,” Vasquez said. “We haven’t lost a game, and I think we’re more than capable of getting there.”