Family Affair Part I: A cross-country adventure
Raquel Weckurst (24) paved the way for her little sister. Play Video
Raquel Weckurst (24) paved the way for her little sister.
Marie Weckhurst (15) has made a big impact in her young career.
Marie Weckhurst (15) has made a big impact in her young career.
With visions of Indiana Jones in her head, Californian Raquel Weckhurst decided to head cross country on a soccer escapade after graduation from Chaminade High School.

So, she did what any self-respecting adventurer would do. She packed a bag, one, and headed east. Alone.

“My parents didn’t even come with me,’’ she said. “I came here with one suitcase and eventually bought all my stuff out here.’’

Her adventure eventually would include her sister and the two have seen plenty of playing time this season for the JU women’s team which now heads to the Atlantic Sun tournament this week.

Weckhurst, from the Los Angeles suburb of West Hills, Calif., hadn’t planned to leave the state to pursue her college career, but JU coach Brian Copham changed that.

“I had sent emails to coaches and was getting them back, but Coach Copham started calling me,’’ she said. “He was the most interested and really wanted me here. I wasn’t planning on leaving the state, but my club coach convinced me to visit and after I visited I fell in love with the campus and fell in love with Florida. The girls on the team were so much nicer than any other school I

visited and I liked how it seemed the program was run. I knew right away the school felt right.’’

Once the romance of the move waned, reality set in.

“It was really hard,’’ the junior sociology major, who has 11 points this season (three goals, five assists), said.

There were the trials and tribulations many freshmen experience. And, there was family.

“Coming from a family of seven all of the siblings are super close, we are a very tight knit family so I was very, very homesick at first,’’ she said. That first year she got home only once during the Christmas break.

What she didn’t know at the time was she was paving the way for younger sister Marie, now a freshman on the team, to head east. Trips home became a little more frequent and stories of her exploits in Jacksonville caught Marie’s attention.

“Seeing her older sister enjoy her experience, it wasn’t really a sales pitch for us,’’ Copham said. “She is inundated with stories of everything that goes on at JU while she’s there. Her sister sold her on it and she gets the opportunity to play soccer with her sister and those two things combined made it an easy, great fit for her. Raquel has been an adventurer.’’ Marie is quick to concur.

“She’s a huge part of it,’’ Marie, who will study nursing, said. “I liked the school from the start and I loved the team. They were, by far, the nicest team I met in all my visits and they were definitely the most welcoming. And with my sister here she was my home away from home. She’s always been there for me to talk to when I’m down. She knows the feelings I’m going through so before I even say it she knows what’s on my mind.’’

Marie has a healthy dose of respect for Raquel’s ability to go it alone.

“When she left she didn’t realize what was coming until she was here and she was like ‘take me home’,’’ Marie said. “She realized over time she liked it here and grew to love it. I don’t think I would have been as courageous as she is.’’

Now, the younger sister gets to experience something Raquel already has. The postseason.

“I’m extremely excited at this point,’’ Marie said. “I don’t know what to expect of it. As a freshman, I feel like I’m the underdog out there. There are not many freshmen that will play so I’m just trying to work hard and do my best and I’ll leave it all out on the field.’’

Which is good because Copham made it clear Marie, who has three goals, five assists and 13 points in 17 games, won’t be a spectator and he won’t hesitate to play her in the first round of the A-Sun tournament this weekend.

“Absolutely not,’’ he said. “She’s played in every game this year and as long as she is healthy she’ll play in every game the rest of the season. She brings an incredible amount of energy and work rate and Raquel does the same. That’s one of the things that makes her successful is she works incredibly hard and consistently she works hard. It can be the 89th minute of the game and they are still running hard and working hard to create opportunities to score goals.’’

In a rematch of a game last week, the Dolphins travel to East Tennessee State University Saturday for the first round matchup. JU won last week’s game, 2-1, and the winner of the first-round playoff game travels to Fort Myers, Fla., on Nov. 2 to meet top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast.

Thursday: The Weckhursts aren’t the only sisters on the women’s soccer team and identical twins Cheyenne and Chawnee Gulick have had their share of fun with JU coach Brian Copham this season.

- Jim Nasella