The last time Yaneisy Rodriguez was on the soccer field at Hudson’s Bay High School, she was a member of the soccer team at rival Columbia River High School.
On Friday, four years later, she returned as a professional soccer player in Mexico, and she was signing autographs for the players at Hudson’s Bay.
“It was definitely kind of surreal,” Rodriguez said. “Because I’m still in college. I’m still a regular person. I still have to turn in homework by Sunday night at 12. But it was fun to connect with the girls who have the same joy for the sport that I did when I was in high school.”
Rodriguez was back at Bay on Friday as an ambassador for ELLA Sports Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to promoting and supporting Latina athletes.
ELLA — also the Spanish word for “she” — stands for Empowering Leaderships in Latina Athletes. It was founded by Lilly Travieso, a softball player at Cornell University, and her mother Patty. Rodriguez was recently added to be the Soccer Ambassador for ELLA.
“The goal of the foundation is to level the playing field for Latina athletes and female athletes in general,” Rodriguez told the gathering of soccer players from Hudson’s Bay. “Sometimes it’s hard to have resources for women in sports. What we want to do is help provide mentorships, help provide resources and just information so you guys are able to play sports and go to school. Today we are donating $5,000 in sports equipment to Hudson’s Bay High School.
“I went to Columbia River, but Hudson’s Bay was my (neighborhood) school. And I just thought that Hudson’s Bay needs it more than Columbia River in this moment.”
It has been a whirlwind four years for Rodriguez since she helped lead Columbia River to the Class 2A state championship in 2019 as The Columbian’s All-Region player of the year.
She spent one year studying and playing soccer at the University of Washington before she was invited to attend the Mexican National U-20 Team Camp. From that opportunity, she made the decision to go pro in Mexico, first with Nexaca in Liga MX and now she plays for Pumas Femenil in Mexico City.
“It was for my own personal growth and really just following a dream,” Rodriguez said of her decision to leave the UW. “I’ve always wanted to play in Mexico. I felt like it was going to help me stay closer to the Mexican National Team, and that’s the ultimate goal for me — to play and represent Mexico.”
Although she was born and raised in Washington, mostly in Vancouver, her family is descended from the Zapotec tribe of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Now 21, Rodriguez lives full-time in Mexico City while playing for the Pumas.
“It was a big change,” she said. “It taught me a lot about being adaptable, being open to new things. But it’s been cool. I’ve met a lot of cool new teammates. A lot of my teammates are from the States. I have a roommate who is from Yale. I have a teammate from Princeton. It’s super cool to meet people from here, from the States, and be able to connect with them in a different country.”
Rodriguez has continued to pursue a degree in communications as she takes online classes through Washington State University.
“Yea, I traded from UW and now I’m a Cougar,” she said. “I try to carve out time for my studies over the weekends, so I can leave Monday through Friday to focus on my training with the Pumas.”
And she has also carved out time to be an ambassador for ELLA.
“ELLA has done several events with softball, and it’s just getting started with soccer,” Rodriguez said. “Our plan is to have free camps for Latina athletes. We want it to be a chance for female athletes to showcase their skills for free, so they can be able go to school and pursue an education while playing the sport they love.”
The event at Bay on Friday was the first such event Rodriguez, and it was the perfect setting for her.
“It was amazing to come home,” she said. “I am able to come home for four days. I’m taking in every day and just enjoying being around my family and being back in Vancouver.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at email@example.com, 360-735-4538, or follow @360TMart on Instagram and X (Twitter).