If there’s anything the Concordia University women’s soccer team can count on in 2020, it’s senior-to-be Tori Cera. So reliable and consistent, Cera has done whatever has been asked of her – like play just about any position on the field. And her powerful leg is lethal. She proved that in the quarterfinals of the 2018 GPAC tournament.
A swing of her right leg from roughly 40 yards out netted the game-winner in yet another Bulldog postseason victory. If there has been a signature moment to date for Cera, that was it.
Says Cera, “That one caught me off guard too. It was in the heat of the moment and I was just like, ‘I’ve got to go for it.’ I don’t know where that came from, but I’m glad that it happened.”
Cera has been a bridge since last summer as the program has transitioned head coaches from Greg Henson to Chris Luther (back in an assistant role) to Thomas Goines. Currently, the women’s soccer team is the only one at Concordia that is navigating the current shutdown of athletics while undergoing a head coaching change. Heading into 2020, Cera is one of the leaders of this team and is a back-to-back first team All-GPAC selection.
Instead of dealing with gusty winds in Seward on Wednesday (April 29), Cera finds herself trying to beat the heat in her hometown Vegas, where temperatures have climbed above 90 degrees. It’s the most unusual of “dead weeks” that Cera has come across as she prepares for two online final exams, a couple of group projects and some other smaller class assignments. Said Cera, “That’s pretty much what my week is.”
The past month-and-a-half would have included plenty of soccer practices and learning more about Goines and what he expects. “Just being with my team (is what I missed most),” Cera said. “They make it fun. They make it what I look forward to. Obviously I would like to be practicing. That’s what I miss most.”
To be completely honest, Cera couldn’t even tell you for sure where she’ll be situated on the field when the 2020 season kicks off. She’s learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and to be able to adjust on the fly. She’s grown a lot from those times during her freshman year in 2017. She says she even felt intimidated at times by the likes of veterans Maria Deeter and the Martin twins (Ashley and Lauren). Henson would remind her to “play my game.”
Henson first saw Cera at a tournament in San Diego and was immediately interested. Cera decided to make a recruiting visit to Concordia and found the entire situation to her liking. She wound up at Concordia as a biology major.
“I came with a couple of my friends (on a recruiting visit), got a tour and practiced with the team,” Cera said. “I knew right then that I was going to come. I really loved the atmosphere. The team was very nice. I just knew coming on a visit that this was where I wanted to be.”
She hasn’t looked back. Cera was recruited to play in the middle of the field, but she’s also been extremely valuable as a center back. Of course she also puts the opposition in dangerous positions with her ability on free kicks. Cera has managed to score 14 goals in 58 career collegiate games because she takes advantage of her opportunities.
In order to attempt to seize the next opportunity, Cera is working out at home without the benefit of a weight room. She’s keeping up with the conditioning workouts outlined by Goines and using the TeamBuildr app to access body weight workouts designed by Todd Berner, Director of Strength and Conditioning.
“For our running workouts I usually do it outside in the 90-degree weather we have right now,” Cera said. “I don’t have access to weights here at home so I have to improvise, but I make it work. Within our team meetings we talk about pushing through it. We have to do the work right now to be the team that we want to be. We just make sure we keep everyone motivated.”
Goines took note of the talent already on board when he was announced as head coach back in December. The 2019 team may have slipped to a 6-11-2 overall record, but veterans like Cera have played in plenty of big games. As a freshman, Cera helped the 2017 squad to a 9-0-1 league mark and a GPAC regular-season title and both the ’17 and ’18 teams reached the GPAC tournament title game.
Cera believes she and her teammates felt a renewed energy when this second semester began. Regular Zoom meetings have been part of the process in terms of building relationships between coaches and players alike. “It’s still a learning process for all of us,” Cera said. “It’s not an ideal situation (to be away from campus this spring), but communication has been key for us.”
Another form of communication has been through social media (follow the team @cunewsoccer). In one of the most recent video team challenges, Cera and some of her teammates crawled backwards up stairs. Graduate assistant Andrea Borray Ortiz has been instrumental in putting these social media projects together.
“We do those to stay involved with the Concordia community,” Cera said. “They’re really fun. Our GA Andrea gives us topics and ideas and we spin it in our own way.”
In due time, such fan can be had without virtual means alone. By the time August rolls around, Cera will be more than ready for a return to Seward and one last season as a Bulldog. Undoubtedly, she’ll supply all-conference level performance once again.