All-Empire girls soccer: Gonzalez has ‘wow’ factor

Maria Carrillo's Madison Gonzalez, the All-Empire Large School Girls Soccer Player of the Year. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

Maria Carrillo’s Madison Gonzalez, the All-Empire Large School Girls Soccer Player of the Year. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Maria Carrillo girls soccer coach Debra LaPrath tries to tune out most of what she hears about projected incoming freshmen. For one thing, with Santa Rosa’s open enrollment system, you can never tell where a kid is going to end up. For another, ability does not always align with hype.

So LaPrath didn’t get too excited over what she was hearing about Madison Gonzalez in the summer of 2012 — until she saw the girl’s ball skills.

“When she showed up in August, we were celebrating,” LaPrath said. “Her first touch on the ball, we were like, wow.”

Gonzalez has been wowing teammates, opponents and soccer fans ever since. Just a sophomore, she was the best player on the best team in the Redwood Empire in 2013, and she is our Large School Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of Pumas Sara Tosti (2011) and Katie Mohr (2012).

Like Tosti and Mohr, Gonzalez is a goal-scoring forward. She probably won’t be joining them at Arizona State, though. Gonzalez has committed early to a full ride at Santa Clara, even if she doesn’t like to talk about it.

“She’s so humble,” LaPrath said. “Nobody would have known she had an offer from Santa Clara. She didn’t come to practice and tell anyone. Her family told me.”

Maria Carrillo wrapped up a dream season on Nov. 16. The Pumas went 20-0-1 (the only tie was with Our Lady of Good Counsel of Olney, Md., in September), captured their third consecutive North Coast Section Division 1 championship, ran their unbeaten streak to 49 games and wound up as the No. 1 fall team in the country in rankings compiled by both Student Sports and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

It can be hard to assign credit in Carrillo’s star-studded lineup. Montgomery’s Taylor Ziemer, another sophomore, gave Gonzalez a run for this award. With less talent around her, Ziemer actually may have meant more to her team. But Gonzalez’s dynamic ability cannot be denied.

She scored 21 goals, doled out 15 assists and shone when the Pumas needed her most. The only team that truly pressed Maria Carrillo this year was old rival Monty, and when they played on Oct. 9, the Vikings were leading until Gonzalez scored the tying goal to send the game into overtime. Then she scored again with less than two minutes remaining to deliver a victory.

The Carrillo forward has a slight build — a fact that is not lost on opposing defenses, which expend a lot of effort trying to knock her off the ball. She can get bounced around like a pinball sometimes, but usually manages to regain control.

“She has an ability to hang onto the ball with two or three defenders on her,” LaPrath said.

“She’ll get slammed and bumped and knocked down, and all of a sudden she’ll come up with the ball. I’ll be on the sidelines going, ‘Seriously? How can she still have the ball?’”

LaPrath points to the presence of mind that led to the winning goal in that 3-2 victory over Montgomery. Gonzalez took a long pass in the middle of the field with two defenders on her, tipped it to herself on the first touch, gathered the ball and put it in the back of the goal.

That’s impressive enough on its own, but Gonzalez told the coach afterward that she had coolly looked up at the scoreboard in the middle of that maelstrom and, seeing the clock frozen at 2:00, decided she had to score immediately.

“And that’s not unique for her,” LaPrath said.

“That’s the kind of player she is.”

What kind? The best in the Redwood Empire this year.

LARGE SCHOOL GIRLS SOCCER

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

FIRST TEAM
Rebecca Benjamin, Casa Grande, Sr., D
Jackie Dutton, Cardinal Newman, Sr., D
Amanda Galbraith, Casa Grande, Jr., F
Jaslyn Guillen, Windsor, Sr., M
Rachel Hargrave, Analy, Sr., D
Val LaForge, El Molino, Sr., M
McKenzie Maher, Petaluma, Sr., F
Katie Prosser, Maria Carrillo, Sr., D
Jocey Santibanez, El Molino, Jr., GK
Sarah Sullivan, Maria Carrillo, Sr., D
Taylor Ziemer, Montgomery, So., M

SECOND TEAM
Izzie Beal, Montgomery, Sr., M
Mackenzie Boulton, Analy, Sr., M
Taylor Bray, Ukiah, Fr., F
Taylor Fager, Montgomery, So., D
Miranda “Shorty” Gonzalez, Maria Carrillo, Jr., M
Claire Howard, Maria Carrillo, So., GK
Gabbi Lemos, Petaluma, Jr., M
Mariah Meza, Windsor, Sr., F
Emily Pinacci, Casa Grande, Sr., D
Cami Rencken, Maria Carrillo, Sr., M
Brooklyn Varnadore, Analy, Jr., F

COACH OF THE YEAR
Chris Daly, Petaluma

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