By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
Honokaa High School’s Monica Carlos says she doesn’t mind cold weather and snow — a drastic switch from the warm temperatures in Hawaii.
To prove it, she recently signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo. and play soccer for the NCAA Division II Mavericks in the fall.
“I wanted to leave Hawaii and experience something new,” Carlos said. “Colorado is definitely different with the cold and snow. But I think it’s a place I’ll enjoy and I get a chance to play college soccer.”
This past season, Carlos, a 5-foot-4 senior forward, scored 12 goals to help the Dragons to a third-place finish in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II standings and earn a trip to the state tournament. The previous offseason, she played in soccer camps on the mainland to hone her skills.
“After my junior year, I thought I could play college soccer if I kept working hard,” she said. “It’s the sport I love and my coaches — Honokaa varsity coach Gerald Shiraki and Kona club coach John Edwards — helped me get better.”
She also praised coaches Craig Nosse and Phill Neddo of the Honolulu Bulls Club, the travel team she plays on.
“I’ve had a lot of support, especially from my parents and family, my friends and all the coaches,” Carlos said. “They helped prepare me for all of this.”
But signing with a college to play soccer didn’t become a reality until Carlos traveled to Colorado to participate in a camp Feb. 23-24 in Grand Junction. At the end of the camp, Carlos met with Colorado Mesa head coach Erin Sharpe and the she offered the Dragons’ standout a partial scholarship to attend the college.
“During the week, I got to play with some current Colorado Mesa players and met the school’s coaches,” Carlos said. “I felt I did well and can compete at that level. Then when the coach called me into her office, she asked if I wanted to come to Colorado Mesa.
“(Former Honokaa multi-sport star) Tia Greenwell is a sophomore at Colorado Mesa and she really likes the school. I felt comfortable there at the camp, although it took me a little while to start breathing good in the cold weather.”
Last year, the Mavericks had one player on the soccer team — junior mid-fielder Kaitlynn Holt out of Mililani High School on Oahu. Greenwell played club soccer this past season.
Carlos said she will play forward at Colorado Mesa and major in kinesiology and exercise science.
“I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do after college, but I might want to come back to Hawaii,” she said.
Signing with Colorado Mesa also took some pressure off Carlos, who leaves Wednesday to compete in the Las Vegas Showcase with her Honolulu club soccer team. After that, she’ll play in the annual Kirk Banks tournament on Oahu, slated March 21-24.
“I was going to the camps for exposure before the college coaches,” she said. “Now, I can just relax and play hard since I already know where I’m going to college. It’s also the last time I get to travel before going on to play college soccer and I want to just enjoy the experience.”
Monica is the daughter of Agnes and Robert Carlos of Waimea.