By Dave Kiefer
Stanford Sports Information
Stanford's All-American soccer midfielder Teresa Noyola from Palo Alto High has joined the Mexican National Team and is a strong candidate to play for the squad in this summer's Women's World Cup in Germany.
Noyola made her debut for Mexico on Dec. 15 during the four-team Tournament of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and played again in the event's third-place match, both against the Netherlands.
The junior was born in Mexico City, moved to the United States at age 3 and is a dual citizen. She has been part of U.S. National Team programs since 2004, and played on the U.S. side at the 2010 Under-20 World Cup in Germany, playing Mexico twice in qualifying.
"During the past three years, while playing on different teams in the U.S., I've felt that the system and style of the U.S. program is not a good fit for me," Noyola said. "On U.S. youth programs, when push comes to shove, coaches in the U.S. will resort to a more direct game, in which they don't really see a place for me.
"With Mexico, what I've seen is that the coaches promote keeping it on the ground and commit to breaking a team down with combinations and skills, even if the going gets tough. It fits right in with how I think soccer should be played, and how I try to play my game."
Noyola's parents, Pedro Noyola and Barbara Bayardo, met as undergraduates at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico and moved north when both were accepted into graduate school at Stanford – Pedro in economics and Barbara in education.
Pedro didn't realize it at the time, but his daughter's fascination with soccer began when she was 2.
During an alumni match in Mexico City with his former college team, Noyola noticed little Teresa watching with interest.
"'I remember her standing on the sidelines with her hands behind her back like a coach, just watching the flow of the game," he once said. "She was captivated."
Noyola went through the usual soccer progression – beginning with an AYSO team called the Purple Penguins and onto the Mountain View/Los Altos Mercury club under coach Albertin Montoya, who would lead FC Gold Pride to the Women's Professional Soccer title in 2010.
But even as she was establishing herself in the U.S. national-team system, Noyola first made contact with Mexico coach Leo Cuellar, the famous Mexican international who played six seasons in the North American Soccer League, including three (1982-84) with the original Earthquakes.
"I wanted to keep both doors happen," Noyola said. "Even though I did make the roster for the U.S., I liked what I saw. That's when I thought seriously about what would be the better fit for me."
As Noyola, a 20-year-old junior, assembled her second first-team All-America season while leading Stanford into its second consecutive NCAA College Cup final, she sought direction in the opinions of family and coaches, both in and out of the U.S. system.
"It was a hard decision because I had some great experiences with the U.S. youth teams and learned so much with the U.S. program," Noyola said. "I do recognize Mexico's weaknesses, mainly a lack of commitment to physical fitness and the never-say-die mentality that U.S. players are ingrained with. I think Mexico can learn from some of that, and improve in those parts of the game. They have the other tools in place already."
The answers she received more or less confirmed her feelings. That Mexico was the right team for her. Understandably, her U.S.-born Stanford teammate Garciamendez, who at 19 already was a regular with the full Mexican team, was ecstatic.
Garciamendez had been recruiting Noyola for some time. Now, the two will travel to camps in Mexico City every other Wednesday through Sunday, and embark on a spring trip to Europe in preparation for the World Cup, to be played June 26-July 17.
"I returned to Mexico almost every summer until I was 15 or 16 when soccer began taking over," Noyola said. "I've always wanted to go back. The culture, the people, the food. I've missed Mexico."
Noyola and Garciamendez find themselves in an interesting spot with the Mexican team, which is divided among the Mexican natives, who speak Spanish, and the Mexican-American expatriates, who speak mainly English. The Stanford duo, who grew up in the United States but spoke Spanish at home, find themselves somewhere in the middle. Their role in integrating the team could be just as valuable as their play on the field.
Now that Noyola has put on a Mexico uniform for the full national team in a FIFA-sanctioned event, she cannot return to the U.S. team.
However, she is among six current or former Stanford players who are members of national teams that have qualified for the World Cup. They are: Nicole Barnhart, U.S. (Stanford class of '05); Rachel Buehler, U.S. ('07); Garciamendez, Mexico ('13); Noyola, Mexico ('12); Kelley O'Hara, U.S. ('10); Ali Riley, New Zealand ('10).
That number could increase to seven if senior forward and U-23 player Christen Press, the Hermann Trophy winner as the national player of the year, receives a U.S. call-up.
"At the end of the day, I want to develop into the best player I can be and that means getting the opportunity to play games at the highest level," Noyola said. "I have that opportunity with Mexico."