TURLOCK -- For years, the NCAA has told us that the vast majority of its 90,000 student-athletes will be going pro in something other than sports.
That motto might have found its poster child in Cal State Stanislaus graduate Verena Boga. What's more, the NCAA knows it.
Boga, a four-time tennis and academic All-American for the Warriors under her maiden name Preikschas, is one of nine graduates from all NCAA divisions to be named a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year the highest honor the NCAA can bestow on a female athlete.
The winner will be announced during a Oct. 14 ceremony in Indianapolis.
"When I applied for this award, I didn't know what I was filling out," said Boga, who came to Turlock from Amsberg, Germany. "(Associate athletics director) Kim Duyst asked me to fill out the forms, and I did, then I forgot about it until they mailed back to tell me I had made the next round.
"I don't know how they choose who moves onto the next round, but here I am in the final nine. It's going to be very exciting. I've never been to that part of the country."
The Woman and Man of the Year awards honor student-athletes who excel in all aspects of their college experiences. In addition to her All-American awards, Boga has been involved with Stanislaus' Student Activity Committee and also has volunteered for Sierra Vista Child and Family Services.
She earned her BA in psychology in four years with a perfect 4.0 GPA and will be continuing her studies.
Duyst said that part of her job is to be aware of NCAA honors programs and to find ways to make sure Warrior athletes are recognized.
"After Verena's freshman year I pulled (tennis coach) Verek Visaraga aside and told him we needed to groom Verena for this award," Duyst said, adding that Boga is the first Stanislaus athlete to make the final cut.
"She got involved right away with the Student Activities Committee, but then she kept up her 4.0 GPA and kept up the community service. I'm not surprised she made the top nine because she's such a quality person. She represents our university very well."
And, getting back to that NCAA credo, she won't be going pro in tennis, though right now she's a volunteer assistant with the Stanislaus women's tennis team.
"I enjoy coaching the girls and staying active in tennis," Boga said. "As much as I adore tennis, it was just a means to get my education. I love school and that's what I came here for.
"I don't think I'm supposed to be a tennis professional. I don't think my life ever was meant to be just tennis, but I still want it in my life. I'm an academic kind of person."
As an age-group player in Germany, she was good enough to attract the attention of Division I colleges in the U.S., and signed a letter of intent with a Division I school. But that fell through when her SAT scores fell just a few points shy of qualifying her for admission.
"I think I missed the cutoff point by three points to be able to go to a Division I school," Boga said. "I was told I could retake the test and enroll in the spring, but I didn't want to sit out so I went ahead and started looking for a Division II school."
Think about that for a moment. The purpose of the SAT is to project how incoming college freshmen will fare in college-level courses. Boga fell short of the Division I sliding scale requirement, then went on to get four years of straight A's.
"There was a language barrier," Boga said. "This is obviously my second language and all I had studied English in school was twice a week for an hour. That wasn't going to help me acquire a language, and there I was taking a test created for native English speakers. It was challenging, but looking back I think it was fate."
Frantically looking for a Division II school, she sent her resume and playing tapes to Visaraga, who almost on the spot offered her as close to a full-ride scholarship as the program could afford.
"There's no way my parents ever could have afforded this, so I'm thankful Stanislaus had so much trust in me and gave me the chance to come here and pay for my dorm and my books and my tuition," she said.
Once in Turlock, Boga flourished. As a freshman she earned a Division II top-20 national rank in singles and a top-15 rank in doubles with partner Katie Eng of Modesto High, who got her degree in biology and is headed toward a career in medicine.
Those rankings never dropped as the team stayed intact for four years, finishing with a flourish last April by claiming the doubles crown at the 112th annual Ojai Valley Tournament, one of the nation's largest tennis events.
"Katie is a precious person and I was so lucky and blessed to have her as a doubles partner for four years starting together and then ending on such a great finish," Boga said. "She was such a dedicated and hard-working person and we always had each other's back. She was a student like me, and we complemented each other other very well on the court."
Boga, a newlywed, is staying in Turlock as her husband prepares for grad school. She is studying for the Graduate Record Exams while watching the mailbox each day for the arrival of her naturalization papers.
Once her green card is in hand, she can start looking for work. Yes, she'll be turning pro, but not in sports.
"I just wanted to go to college, and tennis made that possible," Boga said.
Best of Stanislaus3>
NAME: Verena (Preikschas) Boga
HOMETOWN: Amsberg, Germany
4-YEAR RECORD: Went 66-18 as a singles player, the most in Cal State Stanislaus history, and won 59 doubles matches with partner Katie Eng of Modesto.
AWARD WORTHY: A three-time All-American, Boga is a finalist for the NCAA's Woman of the Year award. A 4.0 student throughout her career at Cal State Stanislaus, Boga is currently a volunteer assistant for the Warriors.
QUOTABLE: "She represents our university very well" Kim Duyst, CS Stanislaus associate athletics director.