Last year’s 1st team NAIA All-American, Nicole Ballestero, averaged 21 points a game on the women’s basketball team. As the Lady Lions enter conference play, Ballestero is starting the season off strong, averaging 22 points a game.
Ballestero was born and raised in Orange, California by Carlos and Becky Ballestero. “My parents have always been my greatest supporters. They come to every game they can and it has been amazing growing up knowing that I always have them no matter what,” Ballestero said.
Along with having supportive parents, Ballestero has an unbreakable bond with her little sister, Connie. “My sister is my best friend and I think that is because we always grew up playing on the same team. We have some of the greatest memories together, and as a family because of basketball, and I loved having the opportunity to play with my best friend all the way until I graduated high school.” Connie is now a sophomore and plays basketball at the University of Idaho.
It’s tot only the two Ballestero sisters who are very athletic and competitive; the entire family is. Whether it’s playing a game of pool or cards at family dinners, there is always a winner.
“Two of my cousins on my mom’s side play football professionally (one in Canada for the Toronto Argonouts and the other for the Carolina Panthers) so that just shows you how competitive our family is.”
“Outside of basketball I love the support that our team gets from the staff, (professor of Religion and Theology Ed Rybarczych and Department of Business and Management program coordinator Amy Jungkeit). It means a lot to us.”
Ballestero transferred to Vanguard from University of San Diego last year. “I transferred to Vanguard because I knew Coach Davis through club basketball and I knew what kind of a coach and person he was. I didn’t really want to go through the recruiting process again because I trusted Coach Davis, and all that he said that Vanguard had to offer has turned out to be true. I also saw Vanguard as a place where I could grow in my walk with God.”
While here at Vanguard, Ballestero is a Communication Studies major with an emphasis in Public Relations.
After she graduates she would love to play overseas, especially if she gets the opportunity to play in Europe or Australia. “After I am done with a career overseas I want to come back to the States and hopefully be involved in some kind of event management or something in the wedding plan industry.”
Along with many memories that Vanguard has given Ballestero, she will also take from her college experience that, “As long as you are doing something you love and having fun, you can’t go wrong. I am truly blessed that I have found that combination here at Vanguard, and this experience has allowed me to make some life-long friends.”
Ballestero had nothing but great things to say about her team. “My team is amazing. This group of girls is so special and we all have our own talents that compliment each other so well.”
As the Lady Lions enter conference play Ballestero spoke to the teams early success with their 14-0 record. “I think the one thing that has contributed to our success the most is the fact that we are consistent, and realize that no one person is greater than the team. We really do play as a unit and off the court we are truly a family.”
When asked what game she would want the Vanguard student body to “pack The Pit”, the answer was simple: Westmont. “They are the defending national champions and Westmont has always been a big rivalry for us.” The Lady Lions take on Westmont at home on February 11th at 5:30pm.
While looking to the future, the Lady Lions have set goals to win conference along with the GSAC tournament. “Our ultimate goal is to win a national title,” said Ballestero.
With that in mind, the Lions have a taxing conference schedule facing the reigning national champions along with two other nationally ranked teams.