WATSONVILLE — It only took one visit for Syerra Montes to realize that Holy Names University was the right fit.
“Right when I got to HNU, it was exactly what I was looking for,” Montes said. “I had a check list and I don’t think there was one box that I didn’t check.”
On Wednesday Monte Vista Christian’s star keeper made it official, signing her letter of intent to play soccer for the NCAA Division II Hawks with several friends, family and teammates in attendance.
“It was just really surreal,” Montes said. “Seeing all of my supporters, just everyone that’s been there since the beginning until the end, it meant a lot. It was a sentimental moment.”
Montes said she whittled down her list of potential landing spots from a dozen to just three over the last few months. The feel of the HNU campus, and the fact that her future head coach, Mike Herman, specializes in developing keepers, made it an easy choice.
“I know that I’m going to be able to gain a lot of knowledge and experience through him,” Montes said.
She’ll head to HNU in the Oakland Hills with an impressive high school resume. The Mustangs’ star keeper has racked up more than 400 saves over her four-year varsity career, and has started in goal since her sophomore season. She also saw time on the pitch as a freshman during the team’s run to the Monterey Bay League Pacific division crown in 2015.
Measuring in at just 5-foot-5, Montes worked tirelessly to make up for her physical limitations. Instead of depending on her length and athleticism, she developed a keen sense of angles, a toughness while attacking loose balls and razor-sharp instincts by working with several coaches from around the county.
She also credits her mother, Monique, and grandparents, Gilla and Robert, for instilling her with a strong work ethic from a young age.
“All of their love and their support is what motivated me,” Montes said. “My mom, on the days where I didn’t think I could do it because I was sore, or tired, or just didn’t want to go to practice, she was like, ‘C’mon, get up, you’re going.’ Her giving me that little extra push, that helped me get to where I am today.”
M.V.C. head coach Morgan Miller took over the program during Montes’ sophomore season, and said she’s seen a steady growth from her keeper over the last three years.
She’s become more vocal this season, and has kept the Mustangs’ youthful group, which features three freshmen and seven sophomores, in the hunt for the MBL-P title with her brilliance.
“I see Division I talent in her. She’s phenomenal,” said Miller, who starred at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “She’s fun to watch, she’s respectful of the game and she wants to get better every game. She’s got a bright future.”
Holy Names is a fairly new program which competes in the PacWest Conference. The Hawks went winless in 2017, but are expected to make a turnaround with Herman at the helm and all but four players returning, including 11 freshmen.