Manuela Corcho’s story speaks for itself.
The sophomore forward emigrated from Columbia when she was nine, nearly missed out on playing college soccer after tearing an ACL in high school and starting the recruiting process late. Despite this, she is a sparkplug for the Stony Brook Women’s Soccer team while pursuing an engineering degree.
But instead of beaming at the opportunity to tell her story, Corcho responded the way those close to her would have predicted.
“Nooooo,” she groaned.
“She is just the type of person that is very selfless,” Anthony Ferraro, who coached Corcho on F.C. Westchester’s U16 and U17 teams, said. “The conversation is never about her. It’s always ‘How are you doing coach?’ ‘How is your family life?’ ‘How was work for you?’ ‘What can I be doing to help the team be more successful?’”
The club team was Corcho’s first taste of organized soccer, as it was primarily a men’s sport back home. She first joined F.C. Westchester during its inception at the age of 10, shortly after she moved to Connecticut from her birthplace of Medellin, Columbia. The toughest part about the move for Corcho was leaving her father, a civil engineer who was not married to her mother, behind.
“I used to see him everyday. He would pick me up from school and bring me back home,” Corcho said. “It was definitely hard for me to leave him and not see him everyday, but we were able to talk still and I still to this day go back whenever I can.”
Corcho’s love of soccer began in the streets of Medellin, but blossomed while playing for F.C. Westchester. Corcho had a flair for the dramatic and an arsenal of moves that she picked up by watching old clips of professional players, but she never let her gifts get to her head.
“Kids will literally listen and do everything Manuela does, not just because she’s an exceptional talent but just her personality is above and beyond,” Ferraro said. “That just really goes to show that she’s a natural leader.”
Corcho’s abilities took a backseat when she suffered an ACL tear during her sophomore year of high school. She was able to return to the pitch just six months later, but was more concerned with leading than impressing scouts.
“When I could [play], I didn’t want to show people because I was just starting off again and I was nervous that they’d see me like that,” Corcho said. Corcho was interested in playing collegiate soccer, but stuck with playing for F.C. Westchester over moving to a more prestigious program.
“People told me that I was good but I didn’t know how college soccer was. I was so behind on the recruiting process I didn’t know how anything worked,” Corcho said. “It was scary. That’s why I went with whoever offered me the ability to play.”
Corcho glossed over records and opted to mass e-mail schools. She also targeted schools with engineering programs specifically, in order to follow in her
“I didn’t want to come undecided to college, and I thought I was good at math, I was good at science,” Corcho said. “I thought it would be a good field for me and I would have my dad’s support to back me up.”
Only “two or three” colleges actually answered according to Corcho, one of which was Stony Brook.
“I saw her play in two tournaments that were not what people might determine to be premier, high-level,” Stony Brook Women’s Soccer head coach Sue Ryan said. “[Ferraro] recommended her highly and I entirely trusted his opinion and then she came to one of our prospect clinics to show what she could do and then that sealed it for us.”
“The whole thing was late,” Corcho said. “I was basically a walk-on. Even my teammates didn’t know I was coming until three months before. Stony Brook kind of chose me.”
A year later, Corcho is second on the team in points and goals. She has played in all 12 contests this season, started in four and has won an America East Player of the Week honor.
Corcho is doing all of this despite missing portions of practice and lift sessions due to her majoring in engineering. She makes up the missed time by coming to other practices early, staying late and getting her own individual lifts in when she can. Her career is what matters to her most, but she refuses to let her teammates down.
“She’s a little bit of a Renaissance Woman in that she’s one of the brightest players academically on our team. She’s an engineering major, which is not easy to do at Stony Brook without any other commitments,” Ryan said. “That shows you a lot about her work ethic and where she wants to get to and what she wants to do.”
“Yeah. It is,” Corcho said when asked if the degree was her top priority. “I am committed. There’s no way I’m taking a fifth year to get that degree. I want to do it in four years.”
That was the first time Corcho spoke outside of her humble, reserved persona. When Corcho says it is “career-first right now,” she means it. Career first, questions about her journey here later. As the interview ended Corcho was asked if there was anything else she wanted to be asked about.
“No,” Corcho chuckled. “No.”