Vianca Dagnino Begins Oberlin Softball Career After Years with Peruvian National Team


Photo Courtesy of Vianca Dagnino

College first-year Vianca Dagnino looks forward to being an integral part of the softball team’s successes this spring.

The routine of the average high school student is simple: Go to school, attend classes and other extracurricular activities, and then return home to do homework for the following school day.

For Vianca Dagnino, a first-year catcher on Oberlin’s varsity softball team, high school was a bit different. While her peers were at school in her home state of California, Dagnino was getting hits off softball legends like Monica Abbott.

Since the age of 13, Dagnino has been an active member of the Peruvian National Softball Team, traveling to all corners of the world for tournaments and competitions against big-time opponents. With such a strong focus on softball, her high school experience was certainly unconventional, to say the least.

“I missed a lot of high school,” Dagnino said, “but my teachers were totally okay with it. They would make arrangements. I would do my homework on the bus on our way to games. I’ve always been able to manage getting my way through things.”

Born in Peru and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dagnino made her initial connection to the national team through a coach at her travel softball organization in the United States.

“The coaches were introducing [themselves], and [one coach] said she played [softball] at Cal and was part of the Peruvian National Team,” Dagnino said. “At that time, I didn’t really know there was a Peruvian National Team at all.”

This coach put Dagnino in contact with the president of the federation, Marisa Matsuda. Two months later, Dagnino was in Lima visiting family and trying out for the team. After two weeks of practice, the head coach approached Dagnino and asked her if she had a Peruvian passport and a Peruvian ID. When she responded in the affirmative, the coach informed her that the team would be taking her to Brazil in the next couple of weeks.

“I was the youngest,” Dagnino said. “Honestly, I didn’t expect myself [to play]. It was intimidating knowing these girls had jobs and were [established adults].”

In Brazil, Dagnino started as catcher for the under-17 team. In her first at-bat, she crushed a double and stole third base. Spotting an opportunity after a passed ball, she attempted to steal home but broke her thumb in the process of what she called a “miscalculated slide.” Due to the excitement of her national team debut and innate perseverance, Dagnino managed to play two more games later that day, but ended the tournament with a thumb that had swelled to “the size of a sausage,” thus permanently earning her the nickname “Loca” — “crazy” in Spanish — from her teammates and a scar along the groove of the knuckle below her thumb.

Dagnino’s Oberlin teammates would agree that she has an air of confidence about her that most players rarely have, especially as a rookie. Dagnino said she immediately felt comfortable and supported at her new home, but never forgets where she came from.

“Obviously, I’ve gotten to play a bunch of amazing players from all over the world,” she said, “but I feel like my main goal was always to get to college. My parents never went to college, so softball was a way for me to go to college. [It] really opened a door for me.”

On the softball team, Dagnino has discovered a different team dynamic as well.

“I love it here,” Dagnino said. “I [would] say the team chemistry is much more family-like. It is in Peru as well, but it’s much more competitive [there]. But here it’s like, ‘you lean on me and I’ll lean on you.’ We have [athletes] from all walks of life. It’s interesting meeting these [people] because they are just amazing.”

Off the field, Dagnino is interested in Comparative American Studies and Politics. She is an avid fan of Netflix and a self-taught guitarist, pianist, and trumpeter. However, some might not know she also loves to write poetry, and completed her own anthology during Winter Term. Much of her work is about her family, for whom she has a lot of gratitude.

“I was writing this Winter Term project to reflect [and] learn more about myself,” Dagnino said. “I was born without an ear canal in my right ear, so my dad made the decision to move out to San Francisco so that I could get the right medical help for my ear. [There] he went from the ground up,” Dagnino explained. “He had everything back in Peru, but decided to drop everything and support our family.”

While softball and college seem like a lot to juggle day every day, Dagnino enjoys her commitments. She also has a strong network of support through her family, especially her parents.

“My parents are people who have sacrificed a lot for me. I see them in the stands; they go to every one of my games,” she said. “They’ve told me they see the world through my eyes. Everything they do is to support me.”

Dagnino will continue competing shortly after the conclusion of her first collegiate season, when she travels to Lima, Peru to play in the Pan American Games from July 28 to August 10.