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West Ranch's Kendall Moskal: All due respect

Moskal has helped bring notoriety to West Ranch’s program

Posted: February 7, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch senior Kendall Moskal has helped the improved Wildcats earn national notoriety so far this season.

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Kendall Moskal didn’t realize it at the time, but there was more than a victory on the line when she stepped up to the penalty spot to take her team’s final penalty kick against nationally ranked Flintridge Sacred Heart on Dec. 28.

She was kicking for respect.

She was kicking for the recognition that had eluded her West Ranch girls soccer team for three years.

“I was ready to cry — I either make this or my entire team hates me,” she says.

The team probably wouldn’t have hated her had she missed — but it didn’t matter.

Standing on the field at the Los Tacos Holiday Tournament, Moskal buried the shot in the back of the net and gave the Wildcats a 0-0 (4-3 penalty kicks) victory over the Tologs.

“For a few minutes it was an isolated moment,” she says. No matter who you are playing against, winning in PKs is fun. After, we started to say to each other what we just did. West Ranch, who started with nothing, is now beating the (a top-ranked) team in the state.”

And just like that, a Wildcats team that has never made the playoffs was put on the national radar — West Ranch rose to as high as No. 33 in the ESPNHS Powerade Fab 50 Girls’ Soccer Winter rankings.

And for a player like Moskal, who has fought through the struggles of the past three years, that respect is long overdue.

“It’s been hard because I’ve always wondered, what are we doing that’s wrong?” she says. “We’re all playing soccer. It’s been hard. I never understood it and I don’t really understand it. It’s really unlucky.”

But that has never stopped Moskal from giving her all in each and every game.

“She’s got one mindset, and that’s to win,” says first-year head coach Jared White. “She’s going to go after the ball. She’s going to be the first one to it, and she prides herself on getting to the ball in the air.”

White learned quickly that Moskal would be a vital part of the turnaround he hoped to instill at the school.

The senior sweeper was among the first girls on the team to introduce themselves to the new coach, and she’s been someone White has leaned on as he’s worked on building the team camaraderie West Ranch enjoys today.

But it has been her work ethic that really impresses White.

“There are players who have God-given talent and there are players who have worked their butts off, and that’s her,” White says. “West Ranch hasn’t had a lot of successful seasons, so it’s hard to get that recognition when your team isn’t playing so well. She deserves every success in the world.”

The Wildcats are currently on another one of those unlucky streaks Moskal spoke of, and she will likely be key in pulling the team out of it.

After starting the season 9-1-2, the Wildcats are 1-3-2 since.

But with a game against Saugus today, and a game against Valencia on Thursday that could decide the final automatic playoff qualifier from the Foothill League, no one expects Moskal to bring anything but her best.

“Kendall is a very strong and a very passionate player,” says teammate Kylee MacArthur. “She gives everything that she has whenever she can. She leads the team with her spirit and her drive to do the best she can, and she’s very passionate about the sport and the team and about everybody doing the best they can.”

That passion has gotten her into trouble at times, most notably in the Wildcats’ first match against Saugus, in which the Centurions thought she bordered on overly aggressive play.

“I was an emotional player when I played,” White says. “As an emotional player, they’re going to cross that line and it’s up to me (as the coach) to bring them back. I would rather have her play with emotion and have it go over (than not play with emotion).”

With only two games left, Moskal and the rest of the Wildcats will have to be at the top of their game to accomplish their goal of earning an automatic playoff spot in the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs.

Valencia currently leads West Ranch by one point in the standings.

And while a fourth-place finish would still leave the Wildcats hopeful of receiving an at-large bid to the playoffs, Moskal is adamant about not wanting to leave anything up to chance.

And that’s an attitude that fits right in with Moskal’s character.

She is demanding of her teammates — asking that they always play their hardest.

She is always working to get better — having asked White to leave the soccer balls behind after practice so she can work on her shot.

And she is always ready for a challenge — exclaiming that if she could play any sport other than soccer, she would play football. And she’d want to be a kicker. And a quarterback.

It’s those attributes that have helped her overcome the struggles of the last three years.

And it’s those attributes that could help Moskal lead West Ranch to its first postseason berth in program history.

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