Vanessa Espinoza has emerged as a primetime player for the Rams
this year. But the journey for the sophomore point guard from
Douglas County High School didn’t start off as sweet. She came to
CSU with big hopes and dreams for her college career. Instead, she
got a little more than she bargained for. In the 2001-02 season she
played in five games for the Rams, but the hopeful Ram was plagued
with an excruciating injury.
“My freshman year, I had stress fractures in both shins,” she
said. “I received a medical redshirt, so last year I was a
Espinoza missed the season, but along with that she had to
endure a mental battle.
“I couldn’t do anything. They wouldn’t even let me ride the
bike, so you could imagine how out of shape I was,” she said.
Ask any athlete and he or she will probably say that it’s for
the love of the game that he or she plays. But all the love in the
world couldn’t fix Espinoza’s ailing shins.
“I just love the game,” she said. “I love ball, and I wasn’t
going to let (the injuries) ruin my basketball career.”
Basketball is what mentally kept her going when she couldn’t get
it done physically. Time is what it took for the injuries to
“I’ve never had to sit before,” she said. “But when I was
cleared to practice I worked overtime. Harder than I have ever
worked in my life.”
Espinoza’s determination is what drove her to get better and is
an aspect of her personality admired by her coaches and
“She is an excellent attribute to our team,” teammate Kylee
O’Dwyer said. “She’s an excellent ball handler and defender. She’s
just got an all around great game.”
Anyone who didn’t believe good things come in small packages can
look at the 5-foot-4 guard and be swayed to believe otherwise.
Espinoza has made believers out of many people, including head
coach Chris Denker.
“Vanessa is a gutty, competitive player,” Denker said. “She is
physically the strongest athlete we have, pound for pound, even for
as small as she is. She’s also made herself a better shooter and a
better player through hard work.”
Hard work is the signature of every dedicated athlete and with
the numbers Espinoza has put up this season, it is obvious that
hard work pays off. Accompanying Espinoza at the guard position in
the Rams’ starting lineup is senior Jasai Ferrucho. Both of them
take turns at the point, but it doesn’t bother the senior at
“Vanessa is a great shooter,” Ferrucho said. “I like to play
point guard, but I like when she plays it, too, because I can
create shots for her.”
She also believes with both Espinoza and her on the floor,
defenders run into defensive problems.
“I think it is hard for people to guard both of us. I think we
are both very quick,” Ferrucho said.
What’s even harder to believe is how strong the mind is and what
mishaps can be overcome, Espinoza’s perseverance can attest to
that. She has proven herself to her coaches, teammates and Ram
fans; yet, according to Espinoza, her progress doesn’t measure up
in her book.
“My expectations for this team are high and I am going to do
everything possible to help this team win. Some nights it’s going
to be passing, other nights it’s going to be scoring and every
night it’s defense,” she said. “I am never going to be