Fresno State soccer star turns to second family in time of need

Fresno State women's soccer star Robyn McCarthy poses for a family dinner with Eliana Villaseñor (left) and Jorge Villaseñor Jr.

Robyn McCarthy was cruising down the Byron Highway, a popular two-way road that connects her hometown of Brentwood, California, to Highway 205, on her way back to Fresno from visiting friends.

After swerving out of the way to avoid hitting an animal and an oncoming car, McCarthy crashed into a road sign. A road sign pole pierced through the windshield, and her vehicle was totaled.

McCarthy said she stood there in shock. The then-freshman soccer player for Fresno State was lucky to walk out with a few cuts due to the shattered glass.

With first responders already on the way, she needed to call someone else to come to help her.

Out of everyone in her contact list, she chose to call Karla Villaseñor.

“Karla is my second mom,” McCarthy said. “When I freaked out, she was the one I knew that was going to comfort me the most and be there in a heartbeat. I knew she was going to be there to take care of me mentally and physically.”

And she was. McCarthy recovered from the accident in the comfort of the Villasenor family home, the home of the people who helped her when she needed a place to stay.

“They take care of the people they care about,” McCarthy said.

Leading up to her freshman year of college, McCarthy’s biological family decided to relocate to Utah. McCarthy — a talented soccer player out of Liberty High School in Brentwood— was gearing up to start her collegiate career at Fresno State. 

Instead of her family just two and a half hours away, they were now a couple of states over. While McCarthy remains very close with her family, she depended on the help of her friends when it came to living arrangements, but there wasn’t always a guaranteed place for her to stay.

That’s when Karla and her husband, Jorge Villaseñor, stepped in. Along with their children, Jorge Jr., 15, and Eliana, 10, the Villaseñors opened their door for McCarthy to stay with them whenever she needed.

The family said it was an easy decision to make.

“She really needed the stability of a home,” Karla Villaseñor said. “This is her home. If she needed to come home for the weekend or take some time off, she was more than welcome to. I’m glad she took us up on that.”

McCarthy said she felt comfortable and relieved knowing she had somewhere to stay.

“It was hard, because I didn’t want to go back to Brentwood often…I didn’t want to be a burden,” McCarthy said. “It was such a relief when they said I could stay with them.”

McCarthy’s parents, Tim and Regina, are thankful the Villaseñors share the same love for their daughter.

“It makes you feel really good as a parent knowing that they love and care for your daughter much as I do,” Regina McCarthy said. “I know she is in safe hands.”

Tim McCarthy said that they have built a great relationship between the two families.

“They’re a great family,” Tim McCarthy said. “They are someone you can trust and have always been honest with us.”

The relationship between the Villaseñors and McCarthys was built through years of friendship at Ajax East Bay, a competitive soccer club in Brentwood. The bond between the two grew closer when McCarthy occasionally helped Jorge Villaseñor coach his son’s team.

The transition into McCarthy’s new home came with some culture shock. The Villasenors are of Mexican descent and take pride in their culture, something McCarthy enjoyed experiencing.

“It’s so fun, I love their culture,” McCarthy said. “I love that they brought me into their culture and they are always teaching me so much more.”

One of the highlights for McCarthy is the food. She said some of her favorite dishes include pozole and ceviche, along with tostadas and bean and rice burritos. 

But there’s one important aspect of Mexican culture that Karla and Jorge Villaseñor agree McCarthy adapted to perfectly — family.

Jorge and Karla Villaseñor both said that when McCarthy moved in, both of their children gained an older sibling they can look up to. Whether it’s on the field or on a personal level, they said McCarthy has played an instrumental role in the growth of their children.

“She’s someone you can trust,” Jorge Villaseñor said. “She was always willing to help. She teaches our kids a lot about life being tough but still having to go forward.”

Jorge Jr. wasn’t taking soccer seriously, but having McCarthy and her winning culture around him changed that. 

McCarthy was recruited heavily in high school and helped her alma mater, Liberty, capture two North Coast Section Division I championships. Her experiences in what college recruiters look for in players has helped Jorge Jr. not only improve as a player, but enhance his profile.

Jorge Jr. also said that McCarthy helps him personally by motivating him and providing life advice to become a better person.

“Not only do I see her as family, but I look up to her a lot,” Jorge Jr. said.

Having McCarthy in the family has been described as a blessing by Karla Villaseñor, as she said she went through a rough phase of depression over a year ago, struggling to get out of bed and live life. But knowing McCarthy was coming over kept her spirit up because of the positivity she always brings with her.

“She’s just such a good-hearted happy person,” Karla Villaseñor said. “She’s never mad or upset. She’s just one joyful human being that always finds the good in everything.”

McCarthy said her relationship with the Villaseñor family has provided her with fond memories and life lessons she’ll forever hold on to, but there will always be one that she finds the most valuable.

“Family doesn’t always have to be about blood,” McCarthy said. 

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