Being the only girl on an all-boys team can sometimes be intimidating — but for Mayra Rodriguez it's the only thing she knows.
The freshman forward spent her first season playing prep soccer as the sole female member of the Antelope Union High School soccer team.
“If we had a girls team, it would be OK,” Rodriguez said. “But I prefer the guys team — there's not that much drama.”
Rodriguez was a secret weapon for Antelope, bringing surprise to her opponents when she took the field.
“They actually told me that (they were surprised),” Rodriguez laughed. “Sometimes they would play easier on me.”
This season saw Rodriguez grow as a soccer player more than she ever imagined, she said — and she gives all the credit to her teammates for that.
“I get more experience because the guys help me. They go hard on me but at the same time they don't — I get mad when they don't. They should just treat me like another person on the team.
“Mostly when I do something wrong, the guys would help me with it. They always showed me how to do it better.”
Having a girl on his team was a tricky subject to deal with, Antelope coach Alfonso Perez said, but it was worth the challenge.
“She definitely made it different and I had to watch what I said — she was the only girl on the team. It was a pleasure to have her out here and I even told the guys not to take it easy on her. She's not going to get better if we take it easy on her. She's here for a reason — to get better and have fun. It was good for her to mix it up with some of the guys.”
Right out the gate, Rodriguez impressed her coach and there was no doubt in his mind he wanted her on the team.
“She stood out right away,” Perez said. “I gave my whole coaching philosophy and she still wanted to come out. In the first couple weeks of the preseason, it was hard and she kept with it. She didn't have any excuses and she kept going. She kept up with the guys and that impressed me. She had a strong attitude and she wanted to become better.”
Perez said he was also impressed with Rodriguez for having such a high level of perseverance at a young age.
“She earned my respect because she's really young and she still wanted to come out and play with a bunch of guys. I put her in most of the games when I could. She probably didn't play maybe four of the games the whole year — so that's quite a bit of minutes for her this season as a freshman. I was glad to actually put her in the games and get her some playing time so she could get more experience.”
Rodriguez said she is already looking forward to next year and hopes to see more playing time on the field as well being able to knock on into the back of the net for the Rams.
“I want to play again next year. I really want to be able to score a goal. I'm going to work on moving the ball around and get to where I want it.”