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ALL-EMPIRE LARGE school GIRLS soccer

PLAYER OF THE YEAR Maddy Gonzalez, Sr., Maria Carrillo

FIRST TEAM Taylor Bray, Jr., Ukiah Eden Brooker, Jr., Montgomery Brooke Dunbar, Sr., Maria Carrillo Amy Ferrick, Jr., Petaluma Claire Howard, Sr., Maria Carrillo Hailey Iribarne, Sr., Casa Grande Alison King, Sr., Maria Carrillo Hanna Maillard, Jr., Sonoma Valley Sami Zepponi, Sr., Analy Taylor Ziemer, Sr., Montgomery Tera Ziemer, Soph., Montgomery

SECOND TEAM Izzy Christmann, Jr., Montgomery Ashley Fontanelli, Sr., Rancho Cotate Jordan Girman, Jr., Montgomery Itzel Gonzalez, Sr., Piner Hannah Ingram, Sr., Casa Grande Kaitlyn Lane, Jr., Analy Melanie Mathewson, Sr., Santa Rosa Amanda Nebozuk, Jr., Analy Sydney Rickert, Sr., Maria Carrillo Delores Sosa, Soph., Elsie Allen Bria Varnbuhler, Maria Carrillo, senior

COACH OF THE YEAR Tomas Morales, El Molino


Deja vu anyone?

When discussing, debating, mulling and pondering who is the All-Empire Large School Player of the Year in girls soccer, it’s the same two names we’ve all been debating in the three years since they were sophomores: Maria Carrillo’s Maddy Gonzalez and Montgomery’s Taylor Ziemer.

Same names, same argument, new year: When trying to determine who gets the honor between two players with undeniable upsides, does the award go to the player who had the best season or the player who meant the most to her team?

Gonzalez, with her 24 goals and 20 assists in her senior year, is the lightning-quick striker who puts up mind-boggling numbers while putting on a show of dizzying agility and touch. Her Pumas also brought home their fifth consecutive North Coast Section title.

But Ziemer, a senior who skipped her spring semester to enroll at the University of Virginia where she will suit up for the Cavaliers, who finished last season as the fourth-best team in the nation, is a regular participant with the U.S. U-18 Women’s National Team. In fact, Ziemer missed some Vikings’ games while playing with the national squad.

And she is, without question, the motor that made the Vikings go. The same Vikings, mind you, who broke the spell this year and beat their crosstown rivals from Maria Carrillo 1-0 in the first North Bay League contest between the two. Yup, behind a Taylor Ziemer goal.

But if this all sounds eerily familiar, it should. This next part should sound familiar, too. The All-Empire Large School Player of the Year, for the third year running, is Maddy Gonzalez.

And here’s why.

“She is so quick and dynamic. Maddy presents more problems for us,” one coach said. “She just grabbed hold of the game right from the get-go.”

And then there’s this: “She is really pretty to watch … one of those players you want to be on the field with.”

And this: “Maddy Gonzalez, to me, is the best player.”

“I have never seen a player like that around here,” Santa Rosa coach Nikki Kumasaka said. “I haven’t seen anyone stop her. She creates everything.”

And this is also part of the equation: the Pumas bested the Vikings three out of four games this season. Gonzalez went out the same way she came in —with a win.

Longtime Maria Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath, who saw her Pumas drop an unheard of two games this season, including that 1-0 loss in September to the Vikings that forced the rivals to share claim to the league pennant, said for all of the weapons at her disposal, people pull out their wallets to watch Gonzalez do what she does.

“People come to watch Maddy Gonzalez play because she is so charismatic on the ball,” LaPrath said. “Yet she is about as unselfish as it gets. She’s about as humble as they come.”

Gonzalez is headed to Santa Clara University to play in the fall. The Broncos finished 26th in the national rankings last season.

“I have never had one like her,” LaPrath said. “The talent, combined with work ethic, combined with humility, combined with crowd-pleasing.”

ALL-EMPIRE LARGE school GIRLS soccer

PLAYER OF THE YEAR Maddy Gonzalez, Sr., Maria Carrillo

FIRST TEAM Taylor Bray, Jr., Ukiah Eden Brooker, Jr., Montgomery Brooke Dunbar, Sr., Maria Carrillo Amy Ferrick, Jr., Petaluma Claire Howard, Sr., Maria Carrillo Hailey Iribarne, Sr., Casa Grande Alison King, Sr., Maria Carrillo Hanna Maillard, Jr., Sonoma Valley Sami Zepponi, Sr., Analy Taylor Ziemer, Sr., Montgomery Tera Ziemer, Soph., Montgomery

SECOND TEAM Izzy Christmann, Jr., Montgomery Ashley Fontanelli, Sr., Rancho Cotate Jordan Girman, Jr., Montgomery Itzel Gonzalez, Sr., Piner Hannah Ingram, Sr., Casa Grande Kaitlyn Lane, Jr., Analy Melanie Mathewson, Sr., Santa Rosa Amanda Nebozuk, Jr., Analy Sydney Rickert, Sr., Maria Carrillo Delores Sosa, Soph., Elsie Allen Bria Varnbuhler, Maria Carrillo, senior

COACH OF THE YEAR Tomas Morales, El Molino

“She stands out for all of those reasons,” she said.

When watching the Pumas play, there is never any doubt who Gonzalez is, except for perhaps, if you mix her up with her younger sister, sophomore Kitana, who looks remarkably similar.

But with a ball at her feet, there is no mistaking the older Gonzalez for anyone but the most dazzling player on the field.

Whippet quick with a phenomenally deft touch, Gonzalez can create sheer terror for defenders anywhere near the 18-yard box.

But what many coaches lauded the senior for this year is her relentless work ethic — the star who tracks back on defense even though she had a litany of talented players behind her who were more than capable of handling the duties.

“She just works and she works off the ball defensively,” one coach said.

Gonzalez, who will trade the Puma green and gold for the white and red of Santa Clara, has left her mark on the Maria Carrillo program. And the rivalry between the Pumas and Vikings will continue, but without the two marquee players who have dominated for years.

While Gonzalez and Ziemer, club teammates for years, will take the field on different coasts next year instead of different sides of Santa Rosa, soccer fans can give thanks for getting a chance to see the likes of these two playing their prep soccer here the last four years.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”