Where is Dominican University?
Benicia High senior Michelle Li hobbled on crutches into the school’s main office Thursday afternoon ready to sign a letter of intent to play soccer for Dominican University of California after graduation.
It was a surreal moment for Li, a three-sport star for the Lady Panthers. Only two days earlier, Li suffered a serious knee injury while playing basketball against the Solano County Athletic Conference’s reigning champion. Now she was accepting a soccer scholarship to play for the Penguins in San Rafael, a NCAA Division II team coming off a 4-13-1 season, including a 4-7-1 mark in the PacWest Conference
Li is scheduled to have an MRI on Sunday, and the results could significantly curtail – or end – her high school career.
“It was really unlucky, ” Li said of the knee injury. “I’d never had a big injury like that before. But it is what it is and I’ll just have to recover. Hopefully it isn’t torn and I won’t need surgery.”
Li ranks among the greatest female athletes ever to don a Lady Panther uniform. She was the No. 1 singles player for Benicia’s girls tennis team, which won the school’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship last fall. She was a leader in every sense of the word as a guard for Benicia’s girls basketball team, which had a 13-4 record before her injury.
And then there’s soccer, where she has always played varsity and led Benicia in goals and points last season.
“I like basketball a lot, probably even more than soccer, ” Li admitted. “But I’m just better at soccer.”
“She’s been outstanding all three years, has a good work ethic and is a natural athlete, ” said Benicia soccer coach Javier Martinez. “That often carries her in our league. A lot of our offense goes through her. She’s a great one-on-one player and we were hoping to utilize her skills this year. Now I may have to rethink things.”
The senior had 20 colleges interested in her soccer skills, but Dominican and the Penguins stood out to Li for several reasons. For starters, a teammate on her San Juan club team also plans on playing soccer for the Penguins. San Rafael is nearby and familiar, as opposed to several other schools located in the Midwest or East Coast. And Dominican has a solid nursing program, which is Li’s career goal.
“It was stressful trying to pick a college, ” Li said. “I’m glad it’s over with.”
“She’s an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student, ” said Benicia Athletic Director Craig Holden. “We’re all real proud of her and I’m sure she’ll represent Benicia High School well.”
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