Fifteen-year-old Josephine Cotto of Menlo Park felt intimidated. It was mid-September and she had just flown to Puerto Rico to try out for its Women's national under-17 soccer team.
Competitive soccer was nothing new to the Menlo-Atherton High School sophomore, who says she plays forward for the Palo Alto 00G Blue team, which competes in two different leagues and is ranked fourth in California and 17th nationwide. She also competes on a state team through the Olympic Development Program.
Apparently, her nerves didn't hinder the quality of her game too much: after tryouts, she says, she found out that she made both the U17 team and U20 team as a midfielder. The U20 would be competing in a World Cup qualifier the following month, and she was invited to join them.
So from Oct. 14 to 23, she traveled with the U20 team to Haiti, where she played in or started in three of the four tournament games. During those four games, the team lost to Bermuda 0-1, beat Haiti 3-0, lost to Jamaica 1-2, and lost to Trinidad and Tobago during penalty kicks.
She says the team's dynamic is "like a big family with players and coaching staff, since they get to know you more as a person than just a soccer player."
She'll return to Puerto Rico, which will host the U17 women's tournament, to compete against Jamaica on Friday, Nov. 13.
She says that M-A teachers have been accommodating of her busy international soccer schedule. "When I return," she said, "I will usually spend a couple days in at lunch and before or after school catching up on material and getting any remaining questions answered." Plus, she said, her teammates help her with her Spanish homework.
Her father is from Puerto Rico, she said, and though many of her relatives now live in the U.S., in one Puerto Rican town, Aguas Buenas, "there is a family member living in practically every house on the street," she said
As for what her future holds, she says, "It's always been a goal of mine to play college soccer, and now it's become a goal to qualify for the U17 World Cup. In the future I really hope to continue through the Federation's programs and even make it to the senior team one day."