USF’s Leticia Torres out to help Chile advance to women’s World Cup 

click to enlarge Leticia Torres - COURTESY USF ATHLETICS
  • courtesy USF athletics
  • Leticia Torres
By the time Leticia Torres reached eighth grade, she had lived in six countries. Venezuela, Egypt, back to Venezuela, Russia, Italy, Mexico and, finally, Chile.

Her father’s work for Schlumberger, an oilfield services company, meant the family pinged about the globe, but Chile always, unequivocally, felt like home. Annual trips, often lasting through the entire summer, reinforced that notion.

So did soccer. Torres has played since she was young. It was a good way to make friends.

As she grew older, she began playing more competitively. Upon returning to Chile, her grandfather suggested she try out for the women’s team at his old club, Universidad Catolica, based in Santiago.

She quickly made an impact. The Chilean national team took notice. She was invited to training camps, she began working her way up the different age divisions.

Torres harbored hopes of playing collegiate soccer, but she got a late start in the recruiting process. Entering her senior year in high school, she sent emails to coaches, attaching a video of her performances for Chile at the U-17 World Cup.

She stayed in contact with a former coach at her high school. He had played for Stanford, and sent the film to Bay Area schools. USF received a copy. Though the Dons were between head coaches, Maite Zabela, an assistant, asked Torres to consider USF.

“I’ve always heard such good things about San Francisco. I thought, ‘You can’t go wrong,’” Torres said. She sent in her common application.

Jim Millinder became the USF coach in December 2011. As he filled out his abridged recruiting class, he needed a defender.

He heard about Torres, and flew down to Chile. He watched her in games, met with her parents, came away impressed with her presence and poise. At 5-foot-5, Torres commanded the team.

Before he left, he offered a scholarship.

“She was too good to pass up,” Millinder said.

He reels off the junior’s attributes. Captain. Amazing student. Outstanding player. Great teammate. Wonderful person.

An ability to adjust to the style at hand. The pace and physicality of the collegiate game differed greatly from the possession-oriented systems Torres knew. She learned to defend from behind, now she went shoulder-to-shoulder.

But, as Millinder said, “She’s tough as nails.” Soon Torres was sticking tackles and winning aerial battles. She starts for the Dons and, now, the Chilean national team.

After Friday’s 1-0 loss to Harvard, Torres flew Saturday into Quito, Ecuador, for a CONMEBAL World Cup qualifying tournament.

Torres has five days to prepare for Chile’s opener Friday against Argentina. That means steeling herself for the shock of altitude, an Ecuadorian staple. She’s been doing extra fitness work at USF. She knows she’ll need it.

Chile’s qualifying group includes Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Games are held every other day for two to three weeks. The top two teams advance to a final phase, where they meet the top two from the other group.

Should Chile finish in the top two of the final phase, it will qualify for its first World Cup, held in Canada next summer.

“Whenever I play with the national team, I come back with a boost of confidence,” said Torres, 20, the fifth-youngest player in Chile’s team. “I play really well under pressure, and with Chile, I’m put to extremes and I manage them. I’m happy I’ll be back at USF for the West Coast Conference games. Hopefully I’ll be able to help the team the most that I can.”

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Matthew Snyder

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