Sept. 22, 2006
by John Sudsbury, California Media Relations
Valentina Godfrid has a dual role at the University of California.
As a student, she is an undergraduate drama major with her sights set on Hollywood. And as an athlete, she is an All-American scoring machine for the Golden Bear field hockey team.
The roles don't overlap much - the one place Godfrid has no reason to act is on the field. Since being cyber-recruited by Cal, she has developed into one of the top collegiate field hockey players in the country. While her ebullient personality and quick wit will give her an edge over the competition on stage, Godfrid utilizes superior stick skills and a mature, developed game to succeed on the field hockey pitch.
"Val plays at a high-speed with very good stick skills, and she is passionate," said head coach Shellie Onstead, a former Golden Bear All-American herself. "She is one of those players that, as soon as she gets the ball, everybody sits up to see what is going to happen."
In her first three years with the Golden Bears, Godfrid has essentially rewritten the school's record book. The native of Rosario, Argentina, owns Cal marks for career goals (60) and points (147), as well as single-season goals (28) and points (67). Last year, she was named the NorPac Player of the Year, in addition to being recognized as a third-team All-American after ranking second in the nation in scoring.
"I don't think people are used to her type of stick skills," Onstead continued. "She has good striking ability, and she knows how to finish well."
Despite the litany of honors and records, Godfrid is not done yet. She has one more season left at Cal.
"I'm more than ready for my senior season," Godfrid said. "My personal goal is to make my teammates reach their top level by adapting myself to their game and needs. My team goal is to pass that first NCAA round ... and, of course, after that take it slowly until we reach the national title!"
While she has been dominant statistically, as a senior, she will have the opportunity to step into a more prominent role as a team leader, though she is quick to point out that becoming a leader is not simply a decision.
"You can't just decide to take a leadership role," Godfrid said. "Your teammates are the ones who decide whether you are qualified enough to take that place or not. So, I am not planning to take a leadership role, but I hope I'm qualified enough to be one."
Godfrid's senior assignment will be with a much younger Cal team than last year's, which won 12 matches, including the NorPac Conference championship, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Bears need to replace seven seniors, five of those starters. Still, Onstead is optimistic for 2006, despite the rebuilding task ahead.
"After the spring, I am very excited about the possibilities for the team," Onstead said. "A lot of people stepped up during the spring, so everything does not fall onto Val. She can relax and do her thing. She adds something to her repertoire and gets better every year, and she understands that a certain amount of leadership will have to be part of her game."
While her individual skills are obvious, Godfrid also has the ability to lift her teammates' performance, too.
"She is competitive, so she can be demanding of her teammates," Onstead said. "But she is also the first to take responsibility if she screws up. But by the quality of her play, she makes people better. She makes the right pass; she is in the right place. She is just more advanced, mainly because she started playing at five or six years old in her country." Her background of playing in Argentina, one of the top field hockey countries in the world, is a key to much of Godfrid's success. But her distance from California made it essential for a coach experienced on the international scene to deliver her to Berkeley.
In addition to preparing for her 12th season as head coach at Cal, the well-respected Onstead has been a prominent teacher on the international level with many U.S. national-team assignments, both men and women. In 2002, she was a video analyst for the U.S. Women's World Cup team that competed in Perth, Australia. During that event, Argentina was led by international superstar Luciana Aymar, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Shortly after witnessing Aymar's greatness, Onstead was back in the States, sorting some of 200-plus annual e-mails from hopeful prospects. Non-local players are hard enough to assess, those in other countries are even more difficult to gauge. However, Godfrid's resume-writing skills were accentuated by the simple words "teammate of Luciana Aymar," which quickly caught Onstead's eye.
"I assumed when she told me she played with Aymar, she was on a lower-level team with the same club," Onstead said. "After doing some research and finding out that she plays on the field with Aymar, right away I said we're bringing this kid here. If she can play with her, she can play anywhere."
"It is a mixture of honor and humiliation" to play with an international star such as Aymar," Godfrid said. "She can dribble around you 2,000 times during the same practice and you will never take the ball from her. My coach (Ernesto Moran) told me that I just need to learn from my mistakes and learn from the other players. But she Aymar is the most humble person I know and one of my really good friends, so that makes the honor much greater than the humiliation."
Godfrid's Golden Bear teammates may often feel the same way about her. The dazzling stick skills and the potent scoring ability leaving them wondering what happened to their own talents. However, they have also used the opportunity to admire their teammate's game, and to learn from her.
"Last season, at the end of our last game, Jenna (senior back fielder Jenna Long) looked at me and said, `Val, it has been an honor to play with you.' That is the highlight of my career so far; it just made it all worth it," Godfrid said.
Godfrid hopes for many more highlights on the field in 2006 before turning her attention to Hollywood. Cal's connections in Tinseltown include such alumni as Jerry Mathers, George Takei and Bill Bixby, but none of them could boast of being an athlete as well at Cal.
Of course, one former Golden Bear student-athlete did okay for himself on the big screen - Academy-Award winner and former rower Gregory Peck.
All-American and an Academy Award? Now that would be an impressive dual role for Valentina Godfrid.