MELBOURNE, Fla. (Women’s Soccer) – Florida Tech’s Ro Hernandez is not only on the Puerto Rican national soccer
team, but she starts at center midfielder and has been named captain. That’s quite an accomplishment for a former Florida Tech soccer player who calls
herself a Spaniard playing in her first year on a national team.
She was born and raised in Spain, but her mother is Puerto Rican. She also has other family in Puerto Rico. After noticing Hernandez while she was starring
for FC Indiana, a professional team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, the Puerto Rican national team did their research to find her Puerto Rican roots.
“It was totally unexpected. I never really thought of myself as Puerto Rican because I’ve always called myself a Spaniard,” Hernandez said. “But
when they asked, I really wanted to give Puerto Rico a chance. I’m half Puerto Rican and now I really feel it.” Hernandez seems to be getting
surprised like that pretty often these days. As the Puerto Rican coach was addressing the team before its first match against the Cayman Islands, Hernandez
was concentrating on the match to come. Then another surprise came. The coach named her second captain, mainly for her penchant in relating to both
American and Puerto Rican players. She promptly responded when she scored Puerto Rico’s second goal in a 4-0 rout of the Cayman Islands. “I’m in the
middle of this match and all I can really think is how real this is,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes I still don’t think it’s real.” Puerto Rico went on
to beat Haiti 1-0 to advance to the second round of Olympic qualifiers. In late November, the top two teams of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and
Puerto Rico will advance to the next round against the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The top two teams from that group will compete at the Olympics.
Hernandez values her time at Florida Tech and points to it as a starting point for her current success. “I learned more about discipline and being a
team player at Tech,” Hernandez said. Florida Tech head coach Fidgi
Haig moved her from forward to defender and she said it helped her game immensely. “I went from being a selfish player and only moving
forward to a player who could use the entire team and see the whole field,” Hernandez said. “In the back you also have to communicate more so it helped me
become a better leader too.” Not lost on Hernandez was Haig’s tough love on players about their diets and fitness. “He used to come over to
my plate and talk about how bad it was, but when he comes over now all he does is nod and say ‘Good job,’” she said. Her fitness has helped her on
the national team. She’s worked so hard that at times she actually feels like she might be in better shape than some of the national players. So far she’s
played every minute of every match. That’s an accomplishment because she still attends class at Florida Tech and doesn’t get the same amount of practice
time as most of the national players. She works on her own while at Florida Tech and then flies to meet up with the team. She will leave next on
November 20, to prepare for the next round of qualifiers.