Tessa Salvestrin was thinking of going to other high schools than Justin-Sienne.
She lives next to St. Helena High, which would have been a 30-40 second walk instead of the 30-40 minute drive it takes to Napa.
She’s a football star at Justin-Siena, having led the Braves with 49 goals in three college seasons so far. But the Braves only won seven games in his three seasons there. Saint Helena, which plays in the fall, has had at least seven wins a year since 2013.
But Salvestrin’s father, Richard, went to Justin-Sienne and was always close to the youngest and most athletic of his three daughters, even helping coach his Little League baseball teams. His mother, Shannon, grew up playing soccer in Calistoga before graduating from high school there.
“I thought about it,” she said of attending St. Helena High. “Obviously, I have a lot of friends who have been there. But my dad went to Justin’s and my two sisters (Emma, 24 and Hannah, 23) went to Justin’s, so I just felt like I had to go to Justin’s too – and I also really wanted to play for coach Eric Branagan-Franco.”
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As she grew older out of Little League and became heavily involved in club football, it wasn’t long before she started thinking about where she would like to play in college. One way of all but ensuring that one will receive offers from NCAA Division I women’s soccer programs is to attend Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, a boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota.
The prestigious school contacted Salvestrin after his 19-goal second season, hoping they could visit and consider a move there.
“It’s an athlete’s dream. It’s basically like college,” she said. “You train in the morning, you go to class in the afternoon and you train in the evening. You play all over the country against top teams, and all the players in the team are committed to DI schools. .
But Salvestrin decided to stay with Justin-Siena.
“I really thought about it for a few months, but eventually decided I wanted to stay home and stay at Justin’s,” she recalled. “We had planned to go and visit the school, then after our last game of my second season, I looked back a bit and saw what I would miss if I went. I decided that it was the right choice to stay at home.
Last spring, despite being forced by the pandemic to start the football season five months later than usual, Salvestrin equaled the 15 goals she scored in her first year and added 3 assists, a career high.
“She excelled for us not only offensively but also as a leader,” Branagan-Franco said. “She even played in goal at times to help close out games. She helped turn games in our favor on several occasions in our comebacks against our local rivals.
Salvestrin said she was having too much fun playing football for the Braves to want to leave. It’s a nice change of pace from his club side, the Pleasanton Rage 2004 Elite Clubs National League team, which traveled to a national tournament in July.
After leading the county’s winter football teams for the third straight year, Salvestrin was named Napa County Register’s 2020-21 Football Player of the Year.
“I really feel like a role model in the team, that the players look up to me, so I always try to lead by example and do my best,” she said. “Sometimes I will have bad games and you can see my frustration and everything. But I will always try to make sure that I help all my teammates improve and hope they have fun.
The Braves and other Vine Valley Athletic League football teams will return to play this winter this school year. His senior season starts in two months, and Salvestrin can’t wait.
“We definitely have a good team this year and I’m excited to see what we’re doing,” she said. “We should have a good season.
In November, just before the start of the season, Salvestrin plans to sign a letter of intent to play for the Division I football program at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga while majoring in kinesiology. She made a verbal commitment in July.
“They just got a new coach (Theresa Romagnolo) and it’s her first season that she can actually sign players since she got the job, so she’s really trying to build a competitive team that can win the West Coast Conference and go far in the NCAA playoffs.
She said she was hurt enough to know what her middle finger was.
“I had many experiences in the ER and physical therapists playing football,” she said, “although I only had to miss a few games in high school due to injuries.”
She said her favorite game last spring was a 5-5 draw against Vintage at Memorial Stadium. After Salvestrin scored the game’s first goal in the third minute on a through ball from Olivia Janerico, the Braves faced a seemingly hopeless 4-1 halftime deficit. But Salvestrin scored three goals to equalize, two from assists from Thais Thomson-Rangel and Lexi Barlas. After the Crushers regained the lead, Gabriela Ryan and Janerico teamed up on the tying goal in the final minutes.
“We had played a pretty bad half, starting strong and then falling apart,” Salvestrin recalled. “In the second half, we just came together as a team. We were playing really well. We were fighting for the ball. I think everyone had a lot of fun working so hard to recover from the deficit that it was so rewarding, even though we didn’t win, to prove to ourselves that we were capable of doing it. It was a good game.”
She said Branagan-Franco helped her set the bar high.
“He’s really passionate about football and he shows it in training and games, but it’s just because he loves the sport so much and wants everyone to be the best they can be,” he said. she declared.
Branagan-Franco isn’t the only coach to have named Salvestrin for County Player of the Year. Vintage head coach Miguel Ayala also recommended her for the top prize for the past two years.
“Miguel coached me with Napa United (soccer club) for a few years and he was such a big part of my football career,” she said. “He really made me the player that I am, playing top football. I’m going to try to help us make the playoffs this year and prove that Justin can compete with all these other teams.
She loves male coaches, no doubt, because she grew up with one.
“My dad and I always challenge each other, saying ‘I can do better than you,’ so I kind of inherited my competitive spirit from him,” she said. “But my coaches also pushed me a lot to do better.”
It’s easy to spot Salvestrin in a match. At 5-foot-11, she’s the one who looks like a basketball player.
“I was pretty average height in high school, 5-4, 5-5, and then freshman and sophomore years I had a huge growth spurt,” she said. “I learned to use my size to my advantage. I can take longer strides, get faster at sprints and be able to win balls in the air.
After playing baseball, she thought that in second grade she would try playing softball for Justin-Siena.
She ended up leading the team with a blistering .722 batting average (13 for 18), 8 doubles, 12 RBIs and 12 runs scored. All that in just seven games, too, as the pandemic halted the season after the Braves got off to a 6-1 start.
“I will probably play softball again this year,” she said. “When I was playing baseball, I was always working with my dad in the back yard and in the front yard, trying to improve myself and perfect my swing, so it was pretty natural for me when I started playing baseball. softball.”
Salvestrin has been playing football for around 14 years now.
“I still think there is room for improvement in my personal game,” she said. “There are new skills to learn that you can try and acquire. There are new ways to throw the ball, new ways to pass the ball and there are always things you have to do on and off the ball, so it’s constantly changing and I just think it’s really fun.
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