The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

The student news site of La Salle Catholic College Preparatory.

The La Salle Falconer

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!
* indicates required

Next Level Seniors: Out With the Old, In With the Blues — Kevin Serrano-Maldonado Commits To Play Division III Soccer at Whitman College

Jasmine McIntosh
Although senior Kevin Serrano-Maldonado had the opportunity to play Division II soccer, he chose Whitman due to its program culture and academics.

From the moment senior Kevin Serrano-Maldonado first watched his older brother playing soccer at recess, he knew he had to give it a shot. Ever since that fateful kindergarten day, Serrano-Maldonado has been transfixed by the sport, and his passion for the game has rarely wavered. 

12 years later, Serrano-Maldonado’s hard work and perpetual commitment to his craft has earned him a scholarship to play collegiate soccer at Whitman College. This places him in the select group of seniors featured in the Falconer’s Next Level Seniors series, which profiles seniors at La Salle who have committed to playing a collegiate sport.

Although Serrano-Maldonado played baseball for a few years during his childhood, he continued to gravitate towards soccer due to the game’s active nature and the skills he was able to master with the ball. 

“I would always play every day at recess, even if it was raining, or sunny, or cold, or snowing,” he said. “I feel like that’s especially when it clicked for me, because that’s when I was having the most fun.”

After graduating from Christ the King, Serrano-Maldonado made La Salle’s varsity soccer team as a freshman forward. However, due to several unforeseen circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous injuries to key players, he was thrown into the fire immediately as a starter in an entirely new role — left back. 

“I still remember my very first game that I started — we played Wilsonville,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking. I’m like, ‘whoa, big stadium, big players.’”

However, Serrano-Maldonado expressed gratitude for the valuable lessons he learned during that first season. In particular, the adversity that the team faced in regard to injuries was a challenge that allowed him to grow as a teammate. “That built my mental aspect of the game a lot,” he said. “Even though I was a freshman, I had to step up and do my part and cover for other teammates.”

Serrano-Maldonado’s sophomore year marked his first normal high school soccer season, as state playoffs were canceled during his freshman year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though La Salle underwent a coaching change during that offseason, he found that the new staff was instrumental to his growth as a player.

“They helped me develop my communication style, because I really had no clue with that,” he said. “They definitely paved the way for me to have all my successes.”

“I would always play every day at recess, even if it was raining, or sunny, or cold, or snowing,” Serrano-Maldonado said. “I feel like that’s especially when [soccer] clicked for me, because that’s when I was having the most fun.” (Photo courtesy of Kevin Serrano-Maldonado)

With a fully healthy roster, the Falcons soared during his sophomore year. Finally back in his natural position of center midfield, Serrano-Maldonado earned second-team all-state honors, helping La Salle compile a 15-1-2 record. This culminated in a 5-0 win over Corvallis in the 5A state championship, with Serrano-Maldonado scoring two — an “astonishing” moment for the sophomore.

“I still probably don’t believe that I scored two goals,” he said. “I have to look back at that film and see for myself again.”

This was just one of a number of pressure-packed situations that Serrano-Maldonado was capable of navigating. Whether it’s his pair of goals in the state championship or his goal and assist against McKay High School during the state quarterfinals in his senior season — a moment that he “dreamed about” — Serrano-Maldonado has shown the ability to stay focused and calm during important games. 

“I feel like when the ball is out of bounds or I’m not in play, I tend to just refocus and take a deep breath,” Serrano-Maldonado said. He cites this as one of his go-to strategies for handling stressful situations.

Honing his overall mentality has been a major point of emphasis throughout Serrano-Maldonado’s time at La Salle, both in training and during games. In particular, Serrano-Maldonado has worked on maintaining his focus when he’s not performing to his standards or having “a bad streak of games,” he said. 

But Serrano-Maldonado believes that the way he trains has allowed him to improve this aspect of his game.

“That builds a good foundation for me mentally,” he said. “When a game’s not going my way, or [if] I’m having an off day, I feel like those little repetitions that I do really help a lot for me to stay calm.”

Amid the team’s success over the course of his sophomore season, Serrano-Maldonado came to the realization that playing sports in college could be a legitimate option for him. As he saw several graduating seniors committing that year, he decided to set his mind on achieving this goal and following in their footsteps.

Now, Serrano-Maldonado finds himself headed to Walla Walla, Washington to play soccer for the Division III Whitman Blues. At Whitman, Serrano-Maldonado hopes to major in economics while continuing his athletic career as a student-athlete.

Although Serrano-Maldonado received offers from Division II colleges, as he got deeper into the recruiting process, he arrived at the conclusion that Whitman was ultimately the best fit for him. He felt especially connected to the program’s culture during his visit and got the sense that Whitman’s campus was “like a home.” Going to college in a different state also appealed to Serrano-Maldonado, so Whitman’s location in Washington was another key factor in his decision.

Serrano-Maldonado started on varsity for all four of his years at La Salle, having played left back, center midfield, and striker.
(Brooks Coleman)

Whitman’s academic environment was one of the primary deciding factors when it came time for him to sign. “That played a huge role for my decision,” he said. “Talking to my parents, they were like, ‘academics before athletics.’”

Tackling academic responsibilities as a college student-athlete will be a concern for Serrano-Maldonado, but succeeding in the classroom has always been a point of emphasis for him. His biggest piece of advice for balancing school with sports is to make a schedule and stay organized — and utilize your counselors if you need help planning your days. 

Serrano-Maldonado is confident in his ability to hold up during games at the next level, but he has some concerns about the increased physicality that the college game will present. “I’m going to be playing against [people] who are in their 20s,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge difference.”

However, he gained some valuable experience against high-level competition during the summer of 2022, when he traveled to Brazil to play and train with Fluminense’s youth academy — a club that has produced international stars such as Marcelo and Thiago Silva. Although the players there “eat, breathe, [and] sleep soccer,” according to Serrano-Maldonado, he felt that he was able to hold his own.

Being forced to play out of position as a freshman may also ultimately benefit Serrano-Maldonado at the next level. While this situation was less than ideal, he believes that having experienced it before will ultimately help him navigate college athletics, as he anticipates starting his collegiate career at a different position before eventually earning a role as a midfielder.

For Serrano-Maldonado, soccer has been a constant in his life, one that has provided him with a plethora of core virtues and lessons that affect the way he lives. As he moves onto the next chapter of his playing career, he remains grateful for what the beautiful game has taught him.

“I feel like soccer has really shaped who I am in terms of how I treat others,” he said. “How I treat my friends is the same way I’m going to treat my teammates — I’m going to support them and care for them like they’re family.”

Despite having realized the goal that he set for himself as a 15-year-old, the work ethic and dedication that brought Serrano-Maldonado to this point isn’t going away anytime soon.

“I still have a lot yet to improve,” he said. “Of course I’m pretty good — I’m going to play in college. But I still have a long way to go.”

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Let us know what you think about this story by submitting a comment below. We welcome respectful comments that engage in conversations.

Comments are moderated, and won't appear until they are approved. An email address is required, but won't be publicly displayed. The Falconer's complete comment policy can be viewed on our policies page.
All The La Salle Falconer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • T

    Tom McLaughlinApr 18, 2024 at 9:30 am

    Congratulations, Kevin! I’m so excited for you. And I love this that you said: I tend to just refocus and take a deep breath. Thanks for modeling that, and kindness.