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.”