TUNNEL HILL – Vanessa Coronel doesn’t have to look far for football inspiration or competition.
There are plenty of them in her family.
Coronel played with her sister Leticia on the Northwest Whitfield High School women’s football team.
Vanessa’s older sister, Cynthia, was a prominent football player in the Northwest and later began playing football at Dalton State College.
Cynthia won the Dalton Daily Citizen Women’s Football Player of the Year award for her 2017 senior class, and now Coronel is following in her sister’s footsteps.
Coronel is named the best player of 2022.
“I am also honored to do so,” Coronel said. “(Cynthia) was a great player in high school.”
Like her sister, Coronel created havoc for opponents as a striker, scoring goals and providing assists. Coronel scored 24 goals in 2022, finding teammates with seven more.
“She had a great senior season,” said Amanda Moore, Northwest head coach, who announced her retirement after the season.
Coronel also won the award after a former teammate.
Jaylene Martinez was named Player of the Year last season.
“When she was on the team last year, we became sort of a dynamic duo,” Coronel said of Martinez. “That was her only game, then me, then both of us. Losing her was a big loss, but it helped me understand what I can do to help the team.”
Martinez was graduating and the inexperienced front line around Coronel — the Lady Bruins had started with four juniors at forward or halfback — had all the attention on Coronel. She delivered.
“She knew that when she came to work, she needed to rise up and become a scorer. People have been talking about how great Jaylin is, but Vanessa is just as good in her abilities,” Moore said. “This year she has become better at scoring goals. In past years, she could count on others to score, but she had to take the lead.”
Martinez and Coronel may have formed a dynamic high-scoring duo in years past, but the two Coronel sisters have also formed a fruitful couple in their own right.
Letizia played at the back line, not collecting such insipid statistics as Vanessa, but the older colleague solidified a defense that did not allow a single goal to be scored in the 7-4A Region game in 2022.
Leticia worked defensively, so Vanessa and the other forwards were able to convert goals on the other end.
“(Vanessa) is the anchor in front and Leticia is the anchor in the back. None of them say anything bad,” Moore said. “Leticia is like a defensive wall and I think she had a few assists before her sister too.”
“She knows how I play upstairs. Every time she gets the ball, she knows she can send it to me to try and beat the defense,” Coronel said of his sister. “Even off the field, she always cheers me up. It’s almost like having a different pair of eyes on the pitch.”
The Coronel sisters formed the backbone of the Northwestern team that has made school history over the past two seasons. The Lady Bruins reached the Class 4A Final Four for the first time in program history in 2021 and then repeated the feat in 2022 with the Coronels as senior team captains.
Coronel played with her sister for a long time, but she also spent a lot of time playing with her teammates as she moved into her senior year.
A strong core of experienced players, combined with an influx of youngsters, helped Northwest reach the state playoffs again in 2022.
“It was definitely history in the making and it was exciting to be a part of it,” said Coronel. “I’ve been playing with these girls since middle school, so I knew we could do it.”
Northwest advanced to the state semi-finals, losing 5-0 to state runner-up Jefferson.
Now that they’ve completed Northwest, the two younger Coronel sisters will follow older Cynthia a different path. Both will attend Dalton State and they will bring their talents to the football program.
“We knew that staying at home was the right choice,” Coronel said. “We’re just glad that this chemistry is also included in the college.”