Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, Dec. 3
The Indiana Daily Student

sports women's soccer

Despite challenges, Colombian player Velasquez-Herrera excels at IU

Orianica Velasquez Herrera

There are few things more difficult in life than moving to another country, adjusting to a completely different culture and learning a new language.

Now combine that with playing Division I college athletics.

It takes someone of tremendous work ethic, courage and ambition to successfully transition to such a scenario.

Just one year ago, freshman Orianica Velasquez-Herrera was playing for the Colombian U-20 Women’s National Soccer Team. This year, she’s played a significant role on the Hoosiers’ nationally ranked soccer team and is the team leader in goals scored. Herrera’s talent has been made apparent.

What hasn’t been made apparent, though, is how she will adjust to life in the States.

Sparking the dream

Orianica, or Ori as her friends and teammates call her, began playing soccer in Bogota, Colombia when she was 7 years old under the influence of her friends and family. Until the age of 12, she played soccer with the boys.

After that, she played on several organized soccer teams in Colombia, including three stints for the U-20 National Team. Having spent her first 18 years in Colombia, Ori said she has no intention of going back to play for her home country.

“It was a tough decision, and I don’t have any bad feelings toward the coaches,” Herrera said of her home country.

Still, she doesn’t plan on going back anytime soon.

“It’s hard to say that, but I don’t think I would,” Ori said.

Dreams to reality

International scouting has become more prevalent in the 21st century among college athletic programs, especially in sports such as basketball.

However, IU’s women’s soccer program has made good use of its opportunities, and currently has players that represent three different countries – Colombia, Canada, and England.

IU coach Mick Lyon had an interesting story of how he first heard about Herrera.

“I heard about Ori from IU men’s tennis coach Randy Bloemendaal, who was down in Bogota,” Lyon said. “He met Ori and asked her if she was a tennis player, and she said, ‘No, I’m a soccer player,’ and that she played for the National team. Randy told her that he would tell the soccer coach at Indiana, and soon after, I went to meet her.”

While in Colombia this past February, Lyon spent a few hours scouting Ori. At the end of the day, he came away so impressed with her talent and work ethic that he offered her a scholarship at IU.

“I trained for two or three years to earn a scholarship, and Manuel (Lievano), my manager, told me about Indiana University,” Herrera said. “Coach Lyon was in Colombia and was very polite, so I knew then that Indiana was where I wanted to be.”

Ori said she had received scholarship offers to other schools, including Indiana State and South Carolina.

Fortunately for IU, Herrera scored very well on the SAT and was admitted to the school to play soccer for the Hoosiers.

Another dream begins

To help Ori adjust to the United States, sophomore forward Darby Hannon has served as her translator during practice to help her understand what the coaches are saying. Hannon spent last summer in Spain.

“I think she’s coming along great,” Hannon said. “At first, it’s such a culture shock when you’ve never heard a native language before, but Ori really wants to be here, so I think she’s pushing herself to learn as quickly as possible.”

The English language is often said to be one of the toughest languages to learn, particularly because of its vast vocabulary and unique grammar rules and tenses. Ori has made it very clear that she wants to stay in America, but thinks it’s going to be very tough to completely transition.

Ori called it her “biggest challenge.”

In her spare time, Ori said she likes to sleep and talk to her family in Colombia on the internet. She is freshman forward Ciersten Burks’ roommate, who has also helped her adjust to the campus lifestyle.

“She’s a great roommate, and has caught on to things really fast,” Burks said. “When she got her bicycle, she learned her way around campus quick over the summer. She’s made quite a few friends that are in her same intensive classes that are also from Colombia, so I think she’s enjoying herself so far.”

What she’s been doing on the soccer field hasn’t gone unnoticed, nor have her efforts off of it.

This is another example of the cliched – but often true – saying that one can overcome any obstacles in life if he or she works hard enough.

“This is my dream,” she said. “I am living my dream. My goal is to finish my degree here at Indiana and win a championship.”

Get stories like this in your inbox