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Perez Heading To Huntsville For College Soccer
Oakdale High graduate Makenzie Perez is heading to Alabama to continue her soccer career, suiting up as a goalkeeper for the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers in NCAA action. DENNIS D. CRUZ/THE LEADER

The calendar year of 2016 may not have been very memorable for the injured Makenzie Perez, but 2017 has so far been unforgettable for the soccer standout. Perez graduated from Oakdale High School in late May and on July 13 she officially signed with the University of Alabama-Huntsville to play goalkeeper for the Chargers. The signing took place at Bonsu Elite Athletics in Ceres, where she has been training.

Perez started thinking about college as soon as the eighth grade and during her junior year, she began mapping out her visits. The Perez family visited several colleges including Seton Hall, Old Dominion and Colorado State for her to play soccer.

“I wanted to meet everyone on the team from coaches, to teammates and even the students on campus. I really did not want to rush into anything. I toured the campuses and met with a lot of different people at each destination,” Perez explained. “I would not commit to any school without seeing the campus, or meeting anyone. When I arrived at Alabama-Huntsville, I immediately felt like I was at home. The coaching staff was great, the players welcomed me and the town reminded me of home. So when you have all of those elements, that made my decision very easy.”

Perez also spoke highly of head coach Jimmy Mitchell and her three roommates that will also be her teammates.

Perez began playing soccer at the age of five when she played recreation soccer for Modesto at Cameron Park. From that moment on, Perez played the game she loved all the way through high school. She spent her first three high school seasons at Central Catholic and transferred to Oakdale for her senior season.

“My parents both graduated from Central Catholic, and were great athletes while they were there. I just felt that I could succeed at Oakdale High School, so that’s when I transferred.”

Her much anticipated season came to an abrupt end when she suffered an arm and elbow injury.

“It was a game against Lathrop and I went to get the ball and slipped on the wet field. She (a Lathrop player) accidentally stepped on my arm and elbow and I could tell that something was wrong.”

Perez spent some time at Golden Bear Physical Therapy for recuperating from the injury and was able to cheer on the Lady Mustangs from the sidelines throughout the season.

“Obviously not the way I wanted my senior season to go, but I would not trade my time with Oakdale for anything,” she pointed out.

One of the challenges that many student athletes face is leaving their families behind. For the Perez family, Makenzie is the only child in her family.

“It’s going to be a transition without her around. My wife and I are very happy for her and are completely supportive of her. Seeing her through this whole recruiting process from the beginning to today, she has handled it like an adult. Very proud of her,” said Makenzie’s father Donovan Perez.

Perez will be flying out to Alabama in early August and her new teammates will be on the home pitch Aug. 31 for their first game of the season, hosting McKendree. The Chargers finished 8-9 overall last season.

University of Alabama Huntsville competes in Division II in women’s soccer, and is a member of the National Collegiate Athletics Association. They participate in the Gulf South Conference.