Expanding Her Horizons
Interlachen High girls soccer coach Jacqueline Larsen has told any player worthy of playing the sport at the next level to get out of Putnam County and see what the country is all about.
One of her players heeded her advice and chose as extreme a setting compared to her West Putnam surroundings.
Maria Soto, the first four-time Daily News selection to the All-County team from IHS in Larsen’s tenure, will be playing her soccer next in the town of Wauwatosa, Wis., as she signed a two-year letter of intent to play at Bryant & Stratton College starting this fall.
“I didn’t think playing soccer (on the college level) was going to be an option at first,” said Soto, who was a stalwart at defensive back and midfield for IHS, positions she will most likely play at Bryant & Stratton. “Then I decided to apply myself more and I saw this as my only way out – living here and the lifestyle at home. I felt like I needed a new beginning.”
According to Larsen, who eight years before finished a four-time All-County career at IHS by signing a letter of intent to play at Warner University - only to leave after one year because she said it was not what she signed up for– Soto did a lot of the work to find her college.
“I was out picking blueberries when I got a phone call on a number I didn’t know,” Larsen said. “I called it back and it was Lucas Henderson, the coach of (Bryant & Stratton). He said (Soto) was interested and asked what I thought of her coming up there and thought if it was worth him putting work into it and I said, ‘Absolutely. I don’t have another kid that still wants to (play soccer) and would be as good as she’s going to be good for you,’ and I said I’ll do whatever I need to do to get her there and that’s what we did.”
In their inaugural season in the sport, the Bobcats went 5-6-1 and reached the quarterfinal round of the NJCAA Region VI tournament. Soto, who Larsen said will have all but $900 per year taken care of in expenses, said she will be studying general education, but eventually wants to move on to major in physical therapy at a bigger school.
Soto was one of two Rams (along with the team’s leading scorer, Esmeralda Santiago) who made the Daily News All-County team this past winter after a frustrating winless season. Soto is the first four-time All-County standout girls soccer player at IHS since both Larsen, then Jacqueline Fraga, and teammate Alana Christian did the honor between 2007-08 and 2010-11.
Soto said she is looking forward to meeting other players from other parts of the country who will be her teammate and to come out of her shyness shell.
“It will be good to connect with other girls on the field,” said Soto, who never played club ball or travel ball, just at IHS. “I’m excited. I wanted to get away and get a new perspective of life. Honestly, I thought I was going to take a year off and figure it out. It’s a good relief to get it done.”
“I just hope this is what (Henderson) has portrayed it to be and it’s not different when she gets up there,” Larsen said. “I really hoping that getting away is what she needs and I really think it is.”