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Finnish student adds fire to Warrior soccer (w/video)

By Julie Garcia
Feb. 27, 2014 at 8:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.

Eve Johansson, 18, passes the ball after trapping it during a drill at Thursday's soccer practice at Victoria West. Johansson is an exchange student from Finland spending the school year in Victoria.

When the cold weather snapped through the Crossroads on Wednesday, Victoria West's Eve Johansson admitted to being cold.

"(My friends) said 'You're from Finland, you can't say that,"' Johansson said. "But it's still cold!"

The wet weather didn't stop the West junior from heading out to the practice field for soccer practice that day. Neither did a bruised heel from Tuesday night's game against Corpus Christi Ray.

When Johansson was considering being an exchange student back in Espoo, Finland, she said that Texas was her third choice.

"The weather to me is wonderful; whenever it gets warm like last weekend, I was so happy," she said. "It's unreal."

The weather and change of scenery may have been the deciding factors for her to spend a school year in Victoria, but playing soccer wasn't one at first.

"I played in Finland before, and I was thinking about if I should or shouldn't," she said. "I was thinking about picking up softball just to try new things. I was most comfortable with (soccer) because I already knew how to do it."

Soccer is different in the states than it is back in Finland, she said. She played for five years on a club team with kids from different areas and schools.

"It's more fun (here); I love that some of my friends ask how soccer goes and some people I know come to the games," she said. "Sometimes it makes me a little bit nervous; it's a lot of fun and a lot more people care about it."

West soccer coach James McCarter is happy that Johansson decided to play soccer.

"She has a really good skill set," he said. "She has a lot of that soccer fire and passion that we use kind of as a role model; she brings a different kind of culture that is maybe something new to some of these girls."

While she has made good friends outside of the soccer program, Johansson has been grateful for her teammates.

"Having soccer as a common variable has really allowed her to bond," McCarter said. "The friendships have developed."

Though she was hesitant to talk freely in English when she first arrived, the 18-year-old has been studying the language since third grade.

She has also studied French, German and Spanish and speaks Swedish, which is a common language in Finland.

"English was easy to learn; on the TV, it's in English with subtitles," Johansson said. "Sometimes the kids have video games that are in English. It's everywhere, so it's easier."

Switching from language to language has been interesting, she said, as she has stumbled across her native Finnish for the first time. She said she texts some in English and some in Finnish, but tries to speak only English while here.

"Try not to speak Finnish too much, it kind of messes up my English," she said. "If I Skype for a few hours, the next day, I'm like 'I can't speak this language!'"

McCarter said that Johansson has come out of her shell.

"Really just in the short time we've had her, we've seen her grow as a soccer player and certainly in this program - she's been a great addition," he said.

Johansson scored a few goals in preseason games and against CC Miller, McCarter said.

Johansson will return to Finland a month after the school year ends. She will have to repeat the school year, but has been happy to be exchange student.

She has traveled to California with her host parents, and plans to do more traveling after school lets out. Johansson has an aunt in Atlanta.

Though she was used to a more urban area in Espoo, which is close to Finland's capitol, Helsinki, she has no regrets about coming to Victoria.

"It's not just how it looks, but more about the people who are here," she said. "I wanted something different, and I haven't regretted it. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't change anything."

Checking in with the Warriors

Victoria West (3-2-3 district) is in the fourth spot in District 59-4A in the second round of district games. The team went scoreless against Corpus Christi Ray in its last matchup Tuesday.

"For the next two weeks, we're going back to fundamental skills with possession of the ball," said West coach James McCarter. "Some of our lack of offense is stemming from lack of possession, so we're going to work a lot of the receiving skills and decision making skills."

McCarter said the team is not lacking skill players, including seniors Sarah Warner and Anhila Rocha, but that winning takes more than that.

West ends the season against the district's top two teams, Victoria East and Gregory-Portland.

"Those are two important games that are probably going to determine standings," he said. "We've got to get better."

The four best teams go to playoffs.

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