A smile we’ll never forget

“(Jasmine) had this dance that she would do before every game, just this crazy little hands up in the air, shaking her hips around,” Clara Gomez said as she recalls her friend Jasmine Cornejo’s pre-game ritual.

Gomez named it, “The Cornejo dance.”

Known for her enthusiasm and hard-working nature both on and off the field, Cornejo never failed to display her smile and influence onto others.

“We would be at practice at five in the morning and she would still like be awake, like wide awake,” said Malia Tilton, defender.

After being accustomed to lining up and playing next to Cornejo during every game, Tilton now feels the void of not playing next to, who teammates nicknamed her, “Smiley” anymore.

Cornejo, a local soccer standout and the bubbly, emotional leader of the Cerritos College women’s soccer team, passed away on Aug. 4. She had recently turned 20 in July.

Cornejo was reportedly not feeling well on July 31, she was then admitted to the Anaheim Western Memorial Hospital, where she slipped into a coma. After several days of absent brain activity, she was taken off life support.

The Torrance native was a key fixture throughout the Cerritos College women’s soccer team run toward two consecutive back-to-back California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State championships and two National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) national titles.

Cornejo first made her imprint on a game at Artesia High School, immediately notching stellar stats and accolades. In her junior season, she scored a school record 29 goals and was recognized as the Suburban League’s Offensive Most Valuable Player, in addition to being the Lee Central Coast Newspaper (LCCN) Co-Player of the Year.

The two-time California Interscholastic Federation player helped elevate the Pioneers to their best record in school history, a 18-5-1 season; and the team posted a 10-2-0 league mark, earning her the LCCN Player of the Year her senior season.

She seemed to have it all as a player – speed, strength, agility and dedication – all this despite her small frame. Cornejo would capitalize from her size.

“Her speed, especially because she was so small,” reminisces Demi Lomeli about Cornejo’s playstyle. “Any ball you’d give her, she would get to it and (was) always hustling on the field, no matter what, whether we were losing or anything she would always want to score and make something happen.”

“I loved her quick feet, she had the quickest feet and like she was so skillful, said Nayeli Requejo. “She played like a guy, she was so skillful with her feet, she could juke anybody out and she always worked really really hard.”

Cornejo was preparing to continue her education in physical therapy by transferring to California Polytechnic Pomona this Fall semester.

She was set to start for the Broncos women’s soccer team, as well.

“Just great work ethic always a happy kid, always had a smile on her face, every time you saw her she was very enthusiastic worked hard, very competitive,” recalls Assistant Coach Octavio Marquez.

Marquez grew close to Cornejo, coaching her throughout her time at Artesia High school and influencing her to enroll at Cerritos College to continue her success on the field for the Falcons.

“You know, it’s just very unfortunate this happened,” continues Marquez. “These girls build a bond together pretty much year-round and they were really close with Jasmine. Some of these girls were really affected.”

Grief counseling was highly encouraged to players of the women’s soccer team and anyone affected by the sudden tragedy.

“As a team, we had a group session with grief counselors and now we’re dedicating the season to Jasmine,” said head coach Ruben Gonzalez.

The Falcons are setting aside Cornejo’s jersey number (20) for the time being and are having her jersey accompany the team to every women’s soccer game the team plays in this season.

Carolina Ornelas, close friend of Cornejo, will be honoring her friend this season, whom she’s known since they were 12 years old, by wearing her high school jersey number (9).

“I was really really close with Jasmine, we were practically sisters,” said Ornelas. “I’m going to wear her number that she always wanted to wear here.”

As the Falcons look forward to defending their title, they are dedicating this season to her.

The women’s soccer team has their eyes set on their first home game on Sept. 9 as it faces Los Angeles Pierce College. The game will pay tribute to Cornejo.

All proceeds at the gate will go to Cornejo’s mother, Rosario Vazquez, and she will also be receiving a framed jersey in her honor.

Cornejo’s sister will serve as an honorary captain throughout the game.

A few fundraising campaigns have been established to help Cornejo’s family with funeral expenses.

A GoFundMe account has been set up. Cerritos College soccer program and Cornejo’s Norwalk FC club team is selling t-shirts.

“I think Jasmine was always just really happy, being a part of our little group, La Familia,” said Kassie Olivas, defender.