San Diego, Calif., 22 February 2001 (womenssoccer.com) -- In the summer of 1999, teammates Gina Oceguera and Lisa Nanez competed in the Women's World Cup as members of the Mexican National Team. In the spring of 2001, the pair of 23 year olds will compete once more.
Against each other.
"It's going to be weird," says Oceguera, now in the ranks of the San Diego Spirit, "just because I've always had her [playing] right next to me or right in front of me."
But according to the CyberRays's Nanez, this won't be the first time. The former Santa Clara University player says, "[Gina] went to Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo]. She also went to St. Francis, which is a rival high school. So we've played against each other our whole entire lives. It's nothing new for either one of us."
Indeed. Oceguera teamed up with the Cal Poly Mustangs in 1995. That same year, Nanez joined the Broncos. For the next half-decade, both teams would square off on the pitch. The two schools played to a tie in '95, but the Broncos dominated thereafter, winning every match against the Mustangs for the next five years.
Following their equine-based collegiate rivalry, Oceguera and Nanez joined forces to play for Mexico in the 1999 WWC.
"It was a great experience for me," Nanez recalls, "playing against some of the best teams in the world."
Oceguera observes, "It was different from growing up playing soccer here."
Now, the wheel of competition comes full circle and finds the duo squaring off on the pitch once more. The WUSA launches their inaugural season this April and both women are eager to get started.
"When I first found out they were having a pro league," says Oceguera, "I was hoping I'd get the opportunity to play. When I found out I made the team, I was really excited."
Nanez had the same reaction. "I was very excited," she says. "Very excited knowing that I'd be playing."
Oceguera added that she's eager to "show girls that there's a chance for them to make a living at something they love to do."
Naņez agrees. "Now girls in high school and college have something to shoot for," she says, "and that's playing professional soccer."
When the season takes off, both women will join the long line of women's soccer role models. "Young girls these days need role models," Nanez observes. "I feel honored knowing that there are little girls looking up to not just me but other professional athletes playing in this league."
"I'd just try to be as positive of a role model as I've seen the [U.S. Women's] National Team do," adds Oceguera, "and they've done such a good job of promoting the sport."
Not only has the U.S. women's national team promoted the sport, they've also become somewhat of household names. The same thing could happen to these two.
"If it happens," Oceguera says, "I wouldn't be bothered by it."
Nanez laughs. "I don't think I'm gonna have to worry about that as much as Brandi or Tisha," she says. "I'm just happy to get out there and play."
While they await the cheers from the fans, Nanez and Oceguera find ample cheers from the homefront. Both their families have lent them tremendous support.
"They've supported me a hundred percent," says Nanez. "My mom. My dad. My brother. I couldn't ask for more from them."
Oceguera echoes that sentiment. "[My parents] always supported me with whatever I wanted to do. They're just really excited that I get a chance to bring their name around and represent them."
The poet T.S. Eliot wrote "April is the cruelest month," but for Oceguera and Nanez, there's nothing cruel about it. True, they'll be on opposing teams, but that won't be a problem. "It'll be fun," says Oceguera, "just to go at each other. Be a little competitive."
That's all. Just good, old fashioned competition.
Says Nanez: "It'll feel like old times."