Vanessa attended Philadelphia High School for Girls where she was an all public swimmer, city record holder in the 200 IM, and team captain. She was coached by James Ellis and Jane Maunus. As a freshman (1993-94), she was first in the 200 back against Maryland and George Washington, second in the 200 free at Pitt, and third in the 200 free at LaSalle. As a sophomore (1994-95) she finished first in the 50 and 100 free against Rutgers, St. Bonaventure and Virginia Tech; first in the 50 free against Fairmont and LaSalle, .first in the 100 free against Fairmont and Maryland-Baltimore County. She took top honors in the 100 back at the Buffalo Invitational, was first in the 200 back against George Washington, second in the 200 back at both the Rutgers and Buffalo Invitational, second in the 100 free at the Buffalo Invitational, second in the 50 free against Maryland-Baltimore County, runner up in the 200 free against West Virginia Wesleyan, third at the Atlantic 10 championships in both the 100 back and 100 free, and third in the 200 free at LaSalle. As a junior (1995-96) she placed first in the 50 free at Virginia Tech, Pitt and the Rutgers and Clemson Invitationals. She also placed first in the 100 free at Pitt, first in the 100 back, second in the 200 back and third in the 100 free at the Rutgers Invitational, second in the 100 back at the Clemson Invitational, and fifth in the 200 back at the BIG EAST Championships. Returning for her senior year Vanessa was considered to be versatile swimmer who was going to be key to the Mountaineer that season.