HYATTSVILLE – Junior Keylin Amaya has scored several goals throughout her soccer-playing career. She trusts her shot and is not afraid to take risks.
The Parkdale High School defender received a lightly weighted pass from sophomore Gabriela Argueta and, without hesitation, swung a rotating shot into the air. The ball lumbered into the sky before crashing down inside the Northwestern High School goal, flying over the head of goalkeeper Adriana Flores.
While happy she scored, Amaya slowly jogged back to defense, unimpressed, and did not feel the need of celebrating.
“If (my teammates) give me the ball, I am going to shoot,” Amaya said. “I kick hard, tried it, it went in, and I felt good…The shot was intentional (and) skill. I’ve scored more goals like that on my travel teams.”
Amaya’s 24-yard floating goal was the exclamation point of a near perfect game for Lady Panthers girls’ soccer team. Nothing could go wrong. Almost every touch was concise and led to several offensive opportunities on goal. Parkdale took advantage, scoring four times on the road to dispatch the Lady Wildcats, 4-1, on Sept. 13.
Last season, Parkdale’s (2-0) season ended for the second time in the regional final without a trophy. Changes needed to be made to a team who was heavily dependent on senior striker/midfielder Madelin Mejia. This preseason, more talent has come through the junior varsity pipeline as well as tried out for the team, according to Head Coach Rebecca Bethea.
“We have a lot of individually-talented girls but working together was difficult, so we had to find that team chemistry because last week (during the preseason), we did not have it,” said Bethea. “This week, they were challenged to find it and they found it today.”
From the opening whistle, Parkdale was the more skilled team offensively, moving the ball around at will and dominating the majority of possession. It would only take 14 minutes in the match for Parkdale to score after Mejia found a streaking Sharrah Rondina in the penalty area. The junior would get a right-footed shot past a diving Adriana Flores for her first of two goals.
Senior Xochilt Martinez added the Lady Panthers’ second goal seven minutes later. Martinez converted a standing bicycle kick five yards in front of goal after the Lady Wildcat defense failed to clear a loose ball. Northwestern (0-2) responded quickly two minutes later after a goal from striker Ally Mcmanes.
Amaya’s goal would come in with five minutes to go before halftime, giving Parkdale a two-score lead.
Northwestern would struggle to get another shot on goal for the rest of the game, thanks in large part to the midfield tandem of Mejia and Argueta. While the senior (Mejia) was the offensive flare, Argueta was the gritty midfielder. She disrupted passing lanes and challenged for balls against Wildcat attackers. For her teammates, the pair is Parkdale’ first line of defense.
“We do not have to worry about the ball coming back on our side immediately after an attack and we know they can handle the middle,” Amaya said. “It requires trust and I trust both of them controlling the middle, which is great.”
“I played way better than in our first game (against Dr. Henry Wise Jr. High School),” Argueta said. “I took way more risks, slide-tackled a lot and they all came out good…I think everyone did really well today.”
The visitors continued to pressure Northwestern’s goal, finishing the game with 13 shots. Rondina would capitalize again, as Mejia would find her in front of goal and the junior capped it off with another right-footed strike. Rondina’s second goal solidified a near-flawless performance by Riverdale-based side.
For Northwestern, the loss is a reminder of how far they are in the rebuilding phase of the program, first-year Head Coach Wildin Vanbik said. The loss of striker Claudia Garcia, who scored 35 goals last season, has left a void on the offensive side of the ball. Midfielder Jennifer Flores, with a committee of strikers, will be the offensive outlets for the Lady Wildcats moving forward, Vanbik said.
Meanwhile, Parkdale plans to use the win as a momentum-builder as they try to replace losing tears with championship gold this year. In their postgame huddle, Bethea reminded her players that this is a new year where they can prove that they are the best in the county.
“I feel that every year, we should to play harder and smarter,” Mejia said. “And hopefully this year, we get to win (regionals). It still bothers because the past four years, we have yet to that game so I really want to us to win.”