2021-22 Napa County Girls Soccer Player of the Year: Salvestrin leaves Braves with a much better program | Secondary school


Tessa Salvestrin had been the valley’s top scorer since her freshman year with 15 goals with Justin-Siena – in fact, such a dominant goalscorer that her overall game didn’t even need to be taken into account.

But it was difficult for the Napa Valley Register to consider a freshman sophomore the best in the area when her teams won just five games combined over those years.

However, in their junior season, the Braves started off despite no playoffs to rally their determined leader. That was enough to make her the 2020-21 Napa County Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Last winter, Salvestrin was also named Napa County’s 2021-22 Player of the Year for scoring at least 22 goals, a career-high, as well as multiple assists to help her Braves clear some big hurdles. They became the only Vine Valley Athletic League team to defeat second-place Petaluma — champions Casa Grande only managed a draw against the Trojans — while also defeating Trower Avenue rivals Vintage for the first time.

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The icing on the cake was finishing third in the VVAL with 7-4-1 and finishing 10th in the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs. The Braves hadn’t made the playoffs since 2001 but played like they belonged went there and almost defeated 7th seed Urban from San Francisco with a 2-3 loss.

“The other seniors and I really wanted to make our final season memorable and make the playoffs for the first time in our careers,” Salvestrin said. “That was the goal that we had set and we said to the juniors and the underclassmen, ‘Hey, that’s our goal, we’re going to do whatever it takes to achieve it and if you’re not willing to put in the work , then maybe you should play on JV because we need players who want to work hard and sacrifice a lot to bring our team to this point.

“We worked extremely hard in training to get there and it paid off. We had really good league games against Petaluma (3-2 win) and Casa Grande (3-1 loss). The first time we played them, we were like, “Hey, we actually have a shot at beating these teams.” So we were set on beating Petaluma all season and doing well the second time against Casa Grande to show. We did that (in a 1-0 win against Petaluma and another 3-1 loss against Casa) and it got us third place in the league and qualified us for the playoffs.”

The wins against Petaluma weren’t easy.

“The second time we played them is what I remember best,” Salvestrin said. “It was our last game of the season before the playoffs and it was their senior night. It was a 0-0 game late into the second half and both teams fought. It was a great game and I just remember thinking at half-time, ‘I’m probably going to get an opportunity in this half to score and finish this game and I’m going to have to capitalize.’

“And late in the half I think I got a through ball from Thai’s Thomson-Rangel and I knew that was my only shot to score for our team. I took it very seriously and was focused the whole run and just pinned it to the back post.

Sometimes it takes a player who’s been there before to have the confidence to beat teams you don’t expect to beat them.

“I’ve had a lot of experience as a captain since my sophomore year, so I’ve been trying to convince everyone that we’re a great team and that if we really focus on it and work as hard as our seniors do things, we can do it like making the playoffs for the first time in 21 years,” Salvestrin said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, but I’m proud of our team and how they fought in that game. I’m excited to see what they build this season.”

Salvestrin gained respect from both opponents with their defensive concepts and their own teammates.

“I played twice and even three times in the team in many games. It was tough and a good challenge for me, but I think I coped quite well,” she said.

After scoring all five goals in a 5-1 league win at home to Sonoma Valley, the Dragons stunned the Braves to a 1-1 draw in the second half of league play.

“I motivate myself because I’m a striker and it’s my job to score goals,” said Salvestrin. “I love to score goals so every time I score a ton of goals I’m happy and see how many I can score. But at the same time it crosses my mind that I want to make sure my teammates are on board. I don’t want to be in the spotlight all the time, but sometimes in games like[the 5-1 win over Sonoma Valley]it just happens.

“Our team earned a penalty in that game and I grabbed the ball and went around asking around if anyone but me wanted to take it. I asked a lot of different players and they said, “No, no, take it.” I did my best to get other people on the scoreboard but in the end they wanted me on the PK.”

When the high school season was over, Salvestrin was at the Yountville Ranch Market one day with some friends and met the guy who owned both the Ranch Market and the Napa Valley 1839 FC Men’s National Premier Soccer League team, and now whose women’s professional football league team.

“Arik Housley, who I’ve known for a long time, spoke to me about the possible idea of ​​having a WPSL team in 1839,” Salvestrin recalled. “I told him that if they were able to get a team in Napa, I would be very interested in playing for them. So he contacted me a few weeks later and said, ‘Hey, it’s happening. We want you to be the first signer for 1839.’ I was super excited because I’ve always wanted to come back to Napa and play after leaving Napa United years ago.”

She said two budding vintage juniors and a budding Justin Siena rookie were the only players younger than her on the team, which was made up mostly of college players. Nonetheless, she scored the team’s first ever goal and also led 1839 FC in their short first season.

“The league is extremely tough,” she said. “Lamorinda and Cal Storm have had WPSL teams for 30 years, and the Cal Storm team had some pro players who were in their off-season. So it was quite a challenge coming in as a new team, the underdogs, with the team that we had. But I’m proud of how we ended the season. I will definitely come back next year.”

Salvestrin also played for The Rage and made the second team of the Northwest ECNL Conference (Elite Clubs National League).

As of mid-July, she has resided on the campus of Saint Mary’s College, where she signed ahead of her senior season at Justin-Siena as the team prepares to play NCAA Division I in the West Coast Conference.

She is ready to be humiliated.

“It’s a whole new environment,” she said. “Everyone is as good as me or better, and the game speed is way faster than I’m used to, so it took me about a week to get used to it. But I’m making pretty good progress and I’m excited to see what our team will do at WCC this season.”

Until she starts classes on Aug. 26, she said she has a 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. workout, weightlifting, and another late afternoon workout.

She said she’s in touch with her high school head coach, Eric Branagan-Franco, who won Napa County Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2003 while goaltending Napa High. He will enter his seventh season at the helm of the Braves this winter.

“I’m proud of how Eric coached our team. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for,” said Salvestrin. “When we finished our last game of the playoffs, I was devastated, so sad that I didn’t want to have another practice session with Eric at Justin’s. It’s been a great four years and I’ve learned so much from him. To this day, I still turn to him for advice when I’m struggling with training or need any help at all.”

She said her favorite professional player is Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

“He’s been through so much adversity in his life and the way he’s set up these foundations that provide school books for children and lots of lunches for children in England whose families can’t provide for them. He’s a great all-rounder and a great soccer player. When I graduate from college, I hope to be able to do a lot more volunteering.”

The youngest of Rich and Shannon Salvestrin’s three daughters, who was raised by Justin, is already a role model for many, at least young, fans of the 1839 FC women’s team who asked her for an autograph.

“Obviously I hope to play professional football after college, but as an 18-year-old about to be a freshman at college, it was a great experience to have little kids ask me for an autograph.”

When asked if she ever needed to get away from soccer to unwind, she said soccer is actually what she plays to unwind from everything else.

“If I’m going through any tough challenges, I’ll go out and just train by myself or play a game and it’ll just clear my head and I’ll feel a lot better,” she said.

Salvestrin wants to study sports management.

“I think it would be really cool to work for ESPN, SportsCenter or something like that,” she said.


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