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West Ranch girls soccer: Keeper in the rough

West Ranch senior goalkeeper Tina Hedwall holds the line for a young Wildcats’ defense

Posted: January 30, 2010 10:07 p.m.
Updated: January 31, 2010 4:30 a.m.

West Ranch senior Tina Hedwall makes a save Friday against Saugus. A young defense has led to several tough tests for one of the Foothill League's top keepers, who helped the Wildcats to the program's first ever win over Hart on Monday.

She knows she is only going to have a split second to react.

Everything slows down.

Downfield, a run is developing and before long, she knows it could be up to her to make a play.

A pass, a juke and it’s one-on-one with an attacker.

West Ranch senior goalkeeper Tina Hedwall leaves her line and charges toward the attacker.

As the shot is loosed, Hedwall lunges and plucks the ball out of the air.

Immediately, the action speeds back up and she is on her feet, ball under arm, pointing and shouting directions to her defense.

It’s life as usual for Hedwall, whose confidence, dependability and example have helped the Wildcats achieve a new level of respect this season and established a legacy of determination.

“There are many goalkeepers out there that will wear a captain’s band, but you won’t hear from them all season,” says West Ranch head coach Cami Bangasser. “They are only a practice captain. Tina, her presence on the field at practice, in the game, on campus at school, she is someone the girls look to.”

One of the few seniors for the Wildcats this season, Hedwall has taken her share of bumps and bruises over the years, but it has never deterred her from putting herself on the line at a moment’s notice.

Her coach says Hedwall helped keep the team together during a winless league campaign last year.

“It’s not easy to kill yourself day in and day out and have some of these results that we do,” Bangasser says. “But she stays with us regardless. She is the one keeping the girls in check and she is definitely someone that can keep the girls going.”

Hedwall uses the team’s past struggles as fuel, and last week, she led the team to its first ever win over Hart on Monday. West Ranch was mere minutes away from beating Canyon on Tuesday, despite Hedwall having to play with a broken finger on her left hand.

She doesn’t complain about the past, but she hasn’t forgotten it either.

“It’s definitely stayed in our memories,” she says. “It definitely has for me.”

Hedwall’s fearless approach to goalkeeping has consistently kept the Wildcats in games when the offense has sputtered.

“Some of the goalkeepers in the valley have an older, more experienced squad in front of them that protects as they go,” Bangasser says. “It’s almost like our veteran player is protecting us in the back and helping us grow with her experience back there. Do I think she has been overlooked? Absolutely.”

Over the years, Hedwall has developed an improved vision and knowledge of the game, reaction time, agility and confidence, Bangasser says.

She has also ensured that a young defense remains confident.

“I know that if I can’t get to something, she will be there,” says sophomore sweeper Kendall Moskal. “She has saved us a tremendous amount of times. She is amazing. I feel very comfortable and I think the team feels very comfortable. We know that she is going to do her best.”

As the team’s only goalkeeper, the pressure is always on.

And that’s just the way she likes it.

“I think I definitely work best under pressure, but I’m definitely a procrastinator when it comes to turning in essays,” Hedwall says with a laugh.

Hedwall is currently looking at playing collegiate soccer at Cal Lutheran, the University of Central Florida, Vanguard or The College of Saint Rose, where she says she wants to study film editing.

“I have a creative side that I don’t really show to people,” she says. “I try to hide it.”

That creativity runs in her family.

Her grandfather, Ted Swanson, worked in the film industry and on such movies as Caddyshack, she says.

“I like to be in the background,” Hedwall says.

However, her play and command in between the posts puts her front and center when it comes to setting an example.

Close friend and fellow team captain Danika Weber has seen that standard put in place.

“We are both the oldest on the team,” Weber says. “Tina has led this team for two years. They all respect us. Being a senior, she carries this team herself. ... She has always had a pretty good picture of where she wants to go in life.”

Hedwall’s legacy is simple and one that she hopes will carry on through the young team that she has helped mentor.

But there is still work to do.

“I think it has kind of started, but it is definitely not over,” Hedwall says. “We still haven’t earned the respect, but we have definitely gotten the ball rolling here.”

The next generation is ready to pick up where she leaves off.

“I do think we will miss Tina next year,” Moskal says. “Tina is very strong, but Tina leaves a lot of confidence in us, and I feel that she has taught me a lot as a defender in what to do becaue I am so young. I feel that when she leaves, our defense will follow in her footsteps.”



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