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The tireless Vanessa Quintero

Canyon's junior leads team with nine goals scored this year

Posted: January 26, 2014 9:05 p.m.
Updated: January 26, 2014 9:05 p.m.

Canyon Cowboy Vanessa Quintero is one of the most dangerous scorers in the Foothill League.

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Where and when the Canyon Cowboys girls soccer team’s season will end will remain a mystery until it happens, but looking ahead it’s hard for Canyon fans not to be excited about the team’s potential to win big matches late in the season.

With an all-league caliber goalkeeper, dependable defenders, dynamic midfielders, multiple scoring options and quality leadership from their upperclassmen, the Cowboys have all the facets a head coach can ask to work with when structuring a team.

Given the talent on Canyon’s roster, one might assume individual talents could have a hard time standing out.

But 4-foot-11 inch dynamo Vanessa Quintero has proven time and again this season that just isn’t the case.

“She’s 4-foot-11 and plays like she’s 6-foot-7. She’s a force to be reckoned with,” says Canyon head coach Derek Rusk. “You see these teams scared to deal with her. I used to ask why, but I get it now.”

Since returning from a torn ACL that ended her year in 2012-13, the forward has overwhelmed opponents with her relentless approach. Her nine goals are a team best, and she’s added three assists to go along with it.

When factoring in that teammates Mari Kneisel, Alyssa Aguilar and Alissa Munguia have all scored five goals or more this season, it’s not a reach to suggest the Cowboys benefit from many mismatches whenever they take the field.

As far as neutralizing Quintero goes, good luck. She’s got wheels.

“A very, very special player,” says West Ranch girls soccer head coach Jared White of Quintero. “Smart, quick, great technical ability. And a very creative player that you usually don’t see in girls soccer.”

Quintero didn’t have a clear picture of what her future with soccer would be as recently as last season, when the forward tore her ACL and missed the majority of her sophomore campaign because of it. Despite her high quality of play this year, Quintero says the recovery process isn’t over, and that she’s actually ahead of schedule.

“Tearing my ACL in tenth grade — I never thought I’d have that type of injury at this age,” Quintero says. “Recently, though, against West Ranch I had a moment where I realized I didn’t even focus on my knee. It felt like before I was injured.”

The “moment” Quintero speaks of was her sinking of a free kick in the second half of Canyon’s matchup with West Ranch on Jan. 17. The strike delivered the Cowboys a 1-0 victory and gave Canyon valuable points that might play a role in dictating the team’s final standing in the Foothill League.

Right now, the Cowboys are 11-5-2 overall, with a 3-1 Foothill record as a crucial part of their schedule nears. They’ll face a talented Hart team tomorrow, and they already have a Foothill loss at home to the reigning champions in Valencia.

The Cowboys haven’t won a league title since the 2008-09 season, but this year’s team is in a realistic position to at least contend. Finishing the season strong with a win over Palos Verdes Peninsula in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs a year ago has also helped Canyon as it approaches its important string of league matches.

“Last year was a stepping stone. We just keep trying to get better year after year,” Rusk says. “There’s a general sense of confidence that has been brought over from the ending of last year.”

For Quintero, everything that’s happened so far has been a win-win. This year would have been a success if she was merely in the lineup and working her way back to full health, so her team’s level of play is icing on the cake.

“It felt really good when the doctor said I was cleared to play soccer,” says Quintero, whose father is the tallest person in her family at 5-foot-5 (according to liberal estimates). “After going through the depressing stages of everything it was a relief. When I was sad it was just bringing everything down.”

Vanessa’s younger sister, Angel, is also on the Cowboys girls soccer team, and so far this season she’s found the back of the net three times.

Along with freshman standout Alyssa Aguilar, the sisters have built a special working relationship that dates back to their days as youth club soccer teammates.

As Aguilar develops, so will Angel and Vanessa.

But like the rehabilitation process, it’s about doing the small things the right way and keeping things in perspective.

“The first thing I had to realize when I got hurt was that it wasn’t the end of the world,” says Quintero. “I’m just determined to get in there and reach my best effort and get back to being healthy.”

It’s scary to think Quintero hasn’t been at 100 percent.


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