All-Empire large school girls soccer player of the year: Maddy Gonzalez

By KERRY BENEFIELD

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Handful. Trouble. Somebody you have to keep an eye on. Not exactly how you want someone you know to be described.

Unless, of course, that someone is actually soccer wunderkind Maddy Gonzalez.

All-Empire large schools girls soccer player of the year Maddy Gonzalez. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

All-Empire large schools girls soccer player of the year Maddy Gonzalez. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

Gonzalez, a junior on Maria Carrillo’s North Bay League and NCS champion girls soccer team, led the Pumas in both goals (23) and assists (21) as the team continued its dominance over all area competitors. But more than the numbers she posted, which topped her output in both categories last season, Gonzalez caused worry, heartache, anxiety and myriad other maladies for every team she faced.

The anxiety-inducing junior is our Large School Player of the Year for the second year running, again claiming area soccer’s top prep honor amid a field of sterling contenders.

But no question, the competition was fierce for this award. So tight, in fact, that North Bay League coaches gave their top honor to both Gonzalez and Montgomery’s Taylor Ziemer, the brilliant midfield/forward who willed her Vikings to a 21-4 record behind a league-leading 29 goals and 15 assists in her junior campaign.

When the two suit up for their teams, there is no denying their presence — and dominance — on the field. A casual watcher is not likely to wonder “Which one is Maddy Gonzalez?” or “Is that Taylor Ziemer?”

You know.

“They are both amazing players,” said Santa Rosa coach Nikki Kumasaka.

“Those are two players you definitely have to account for all of the time,” said Windsor’s head coach Mark Archambault.

More than one coach pondered aloud the definition of the award. Does it go to the player who had the best year or to the player who was the greatest value to her squad? Does or should the team’s success factor in? The musings took on a philosophical bent.

And if you really want to muddy the waters, drop stalwart defender Brianne Parsons’ name into the discussion. Parsons, a senior at Carrillo, anchored a defense that gave up a mere five goals in 23 outings. Parsons, a fierce central defender, was without peer this season on the defensive side of the equation.

But in the end, after much debate and no easy calls, the nod goes to Gonzalez, who in three head-to-head matches with crosstown rival Montgomery notched a total of two assists and two goals in contests the Pumas won, 4-0, 2-0 and 2-0.

In Gonzalez’s three years with the Pumas, the team has gone undefeated, posting a 60-0-2 record. They have won 40 consecutive league matches with nary a draw.

“Maddy scores in the big games, the games where it matters,” said Maria Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath. “In the big games, she is that go-to player.”

Gonzalez, who can seem like a wisp of a player on the field, is dazzling on the ball. Her pace, both with and without the ball, can at times make those trying to defender her look a little silly. And she does it both in the open field and in tight spaces with players draped all over her.

But possibly even more potent than her dribbling skill is a deft first touch that not only buys space but also pushes play forward.

And when that first touch is anywhere near the 18-yard box? Gonzales is devastating.

In the second meeting this season between Maria Carrillo and Montgomery, Gonzalez posted both goals in the 2-0 win and one was near wizardry. She beat a defender in the left corner but appeared to have zero angle on the goal. But she cut back inside and slotted a shot past two defenders as well as the Montgomery goalkeeper to put the Pumas on the board.

Her second goal of the night was a mix of timing and toughness. Teammate Miranda Gonzalez sent a beautiful through pass to the streaking Gonzalez who, with a single touch, pushed it past the hard-charging goalkeeper. Both the keeper and Gonzalez hit the deck but the ball hit the back of the net.

Coaches credited Gonzalez with having a hyper-intelligent understanding of the game and view of the play. Add that to her pinpoint passing, and it becomes clear why she notched 21 assists this season.

“I see her looking to get the assist rather than the goal,” said Ukiah’s co-head coach Adriane Bray. “I see her looking for options all the time.”

Options are one things Gonzalez has in abundance. The Pumas’ roster is loaded with talented players who have been in the same Santa Rosa United club system for years.

Coaches credited Gonzalez for her work ethic and tenacity, on both offense and defense.

“She works just as hard defensively as she does offensively,” LaPrath said. “She works back for it every time.”

And just a junior, Gonzalez will be back at it again in the fall. Working all the time.

You can reach Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com and on Twitter @benefield

  • EddieM

    i love Sonoma County…