First of her kind

<p>Umatilla's Priscilla Bernal, left, stands with Viking head Coach Tim Lee. Bernal recently signed a letter of intent to play soccer for Columbia Basin College. She's the first Viking soccer player ever to do so.</p>

Umatilla girls soccer player Priscilla Bernal is the first Viking soccer player, to ever receive the opportunity to play college soccer.

The senior mid-fielder, who led the Vikings to the first round of the 2013 state tournament this past fall, has signed a letter of intent to play soccer for the Columbia Basin College Hawks women’s soccer team next fall.

Bernal said she is proud to be the first Viking to ever get that chance, but she said paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps matters to her most.

“Hopefully, any young athlete in Umatilla can look at me as an example,” she said. “My goal is that others see this opportunity that I’m getting and decide they want something similar for themselves. I’d love to be a role model for others.”

Umatilla head coach Tim Lee agreed with Bernal.

“Our goal for this program is to continue to give our players the opportunity to play post high school. I’d love it if soccer can be the medium for students to further their education.”

Bernal said family is extremely important to her, and one of the reasons she chose CBC was because her older sister currently attends.

“I’ll be more comfortable knowing that she’ll be there to help me along the way,” she said. “It’s far enough away where I feel like I am getting out on my own, but it’s close enough that I can still come home to see my family here when I want to.”

Bernal said she’s learned a lot while playing soccer for Lee at Umatilla.

“Coach really challenged me to get better during my time here,” she said. “I’ve had to learn multiple positions and become a leader for this team. Leadership is something I hope to bring to CBC.”

Bernal served as a captain for the Vikings the last two seasons.

Lee said he’s sad to see his star go, but he knows she’ll be great at the next level.

“She’s just got a great head on her shoulders,” he said. “She’s always wanted to learn more, and she strives to get better every day.”

Lee said he got into coaching so he could help student-athletes such as Bernal realize their dreams of playing at the next level while also getting an education.

“It’s what I’m in this career to do,” he said. “Ultimately, education is more important than athletics, but it’s always great for someone to get the chance to continue to play the game they love while also helping further their schooling.”

Bernal met CBC head coach Matt Mills on a recent visit to campus. She said she really hit it off with the entire coaching staff and thinks her style of play will fit well with the Hawks.

“I think I can be a valuable part of the team,” she said. “They have a lot of good players, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding my place on the team.”

Bernal said the best memory she has of her career at Umatilla is her senior season.

“We had a great team, not just on the field, but everyone really cared about one another, and we’re all great friends,” she said. “I hope it’s like that when I get to CBC.”

Lee said Bernal has been a tremendous asset to his team.

“She’s one of the most coachable players I’ve ever had,” he said. “On top of being a great person, she’s a great player. She’s got remarkably quick feet, and she’s gotten better every year in the program.”

Bernal said she is looking forward to enjoying the rest of her senior year at Umatilla before moving on to new challenges at CBC.

She has some lofty goals for her final semester as a Viking.

“Right now, my only goal is to graduate with a 4.0,” she said.

“I’d also like to thank all of those who helped me get to this point. I couldn’t have made it this far without their support. I’m really excited to start the next chapter.”

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