KINGSBURG - It was a special day for Marissa Montelongo and Pearl Vargas, who both will continue their athletic careers at the next level.
In front of family and friends, Montelongo and Vargas each signed a National Letter of Intent at the Little Theater at Kingsburg High School on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Montelongo, who signed her letter on her 17th birthday, will play soccer and softball at the NCAA Division I level at Saint Mary’s College. The Gaels compete in the West Coast Conference in both soccer and softball. Vargas will continue to play soccer at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix. The ACU Firestorm girls soccer team competes in the Golden State Athletic Conference in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Both girls plan to major in biology at their respective schools.
The signing ceremony was an event that the girls described as exciting and unforgettable.
“I can’t imagine doing this any other day, but doing this on my birthday and having all my friends and family over here has made this day better,” Montelongo said.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” Vargas said.
Montelongo and Vargas were varsity teammates on the girls soccer team in 2018-19, the only complete season they played together at the high school level. They recently entered their senior season with the team. The girls were part of last year’s squad that won the program’s third-straight Central Section championship. Kingsburg defeated Exeter 2-1 in the Division IV title game last February.
“She is somebody that I personally look up to because she’s a really good athlete overall,” Vargas said about Montelongo. “[Signing] with her proves that anybody could do it if you just set your mind to it and get out there and talk to those coaches.”
Pearl’s father, Steven Vargas, is the head coach of the boys soccer team at Kingsburg High.
Kingsburg High School athletic director Scott Hodges, who is also the girls’ high school soccer coach, said it was “a great day to be a Viking.”
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“I got a front row seat everyday to see the work that it takes, not only in the classroom, but when they show up to the practice field,” Hodges said. “We talk all the time about ‘That’s where the magic happens,’ on that practice field. I appreciate them as players, I appreciate them as role models to the younger players that are coming behind them of what it looks like to show up and do the work everyday. I’m just very proud of them.”
Before making her college decision, Pearl visited the campus twice and gained comfort with the institution’s “family oriented” atmosphere.
“I also have family up there, so that makes it even more comfortable for me, for the move” Pearl said. “I know that I fit in well with the team already, so it’s just going over there and experiencing it is what I’m looking forward to.”
During her junior season, Pearl played multiple positions including midfielder and defender.
Montelongo verbally committed to Saint Mary’s during her sophomore season in softball. Her interest never wavered and never thought about committing to another school.
“I was always committed here,” Montelongo said. “From the moment I stepped on campus, I knew that this was the perfect fit for me. I knew that this was going to be my home for the next four years and I wouldn’t want to change it for anything.”
Originally, Montelongo was a softball commit and after a process that included speaking with both the soccer and softball coaches, she was given an opportunity to play soccer for the Gaels.
“I know I’m going to be stressed, but it’s going to be the time of my life,” Montelongo said. “I’m going to be making more friends, I’m going to have two families. Both a soccer family and a softball family and I just can’t wait.”
Montelongo has been a two-sport standout since her freshman year at Kingsburg High. In soccer, Montelongo led the Vikings in goals for three consecutive years from her freshman to junior seasons. As a junior, she scored a team-high 35 goals and led the team in assists with 18. She was named the Central Sequoia League Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season and was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.
In softball, Montelongo holds a career .414 batting average with 106 hits and has only struck out 20 times in 291 plate appearances. She is 43 hits away from the program’s all-time hits record of 149. Montelongo was named the CSL’s co-Most Valuable Player as a sophomore and was a First Team selection as a junior. She played varsity softball since her freshman year.
“All the hard work that she’s put in has finally paid off,” Marissa’s father Eddie Montelongo said. “I couldn’t be any prouder. She’s an amazing kid.”