TUNNEL HILL – Vanessa Coronel doesn’t have to look far for football inspiration or competition.
There are many in his family.
Coronel played with her sister, Leticia, on the Northwest Whitfield High School women’s soccer team.
Vanessa’s older sister, Cynthia, was an outstanding football player at Northwest before playing football at Dalton State College.
Cynthia won Dalton Daily Citizen All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year in her senior year in 2017, and now Coronel is following in her sister’s footsteps.
Coronel was named 2022 Player of the Year.
“I felt really honored to do it too,” Coronel said. “(Cynthia) was a great player in high school.”
Just like her sister, Coronel has wreaked havoc on her opponents as a striker, scoring goals and providing assists. Coronel has scored 24 goals in 2022, finding teammates for seven more.
“She had a great senior season,” said Amanda Moore, the head coach of Northwest who announced her retirement after the season.
Coronel also followed a former teammate to win the award.
Jailyne Martinez was named All Areas Player of the Year last season.
“With her in the team last year, we were kind of a dynamic duo,” Coronel said of Martinez. “It was her only game, then me, then both of us. Losing her was a big loss, but it helped me see what I could do to help the team.”
With Martinez graduated and an inexperienced front line around Coronel – the Lady Bruins started four subclasses at forward or midfield – the spotlight was on Coronel. She delivered.
“She knew she had to step up and be a scorer. People said how great Jailyne was, but Vanessa is just as good at her abilities,” Moore said. “She improved to finish with goals this year. In years past she could kind of rely on others to score, but she had to take the lead.”
Martinez and Coronel may have formed a dynamic goalscoring duo in recent years, but the two Coronel sisters have also been a prolific couple on their own.
Leticia played on the back line, not racking up the garish scoring stats that Vanessa did, but the other senior anchored a defense that failed to score a single goal in the region 7-game. 4A in 2022.
Leticia did the work on defense so that Vanessa and the other forwards could convert goals at the other end.
“(Vanessa) is the anchor up front, and Leticia is the anchor aft. Don’t say anything negative,” Moore said. “Leticia is like a wall on defense, and then I think she also had a few assists up to her sister.”
“She knows how I play up top. Every time she gets the ball she knows she can send it to me to try and beat the defence,” Coronel said of her sister. “Even off the pitch, she’s always cheering me on too. It’s almost like I have another set of eyes on the pitch.”
The Coronel sisters have formed the backbone of a North West team that has made school history for the past two seasons. The Lady Bruins reached the Class 4A Final Four for the first time in program history in 2021, then matched that achievement in 2022 with the Coronels as senior team captains.
Coronel had played with her sister for a long time, but she had also spent a lot of time playing with her teammates by the time she reached her senior year.
A strong core of experience combined with the influx of youngsters has helped Northwest re-establish a playoff run in 2022.
“It was definitely history in the making, and it was exciting to be a part of it,” Coronel said. “I had been playing with these girls since middle school, so I knew we could do it.”
Northwest reached the state semifinals, losing 5-0 to state runner-up Jefferson.
Now that they’ve graduated from Northwest, the two younger Coronel sisters will follow elder Cynthia in another way. Both will attend Dalton State and bring their talents to the football program.
“We knew staying home was the right choice,” Coronel said. “We’re just happy to keep that chemistry going at the university as well.”