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Air Force 1(3)

Canyon senior possesses passion and skills to make her a threat on both ends of the field

Posted: January 14, 2009 9:32 p.m.
Updated: January 15, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Canyon High senior sweeper Milan Cabrera commands a defensive unit that is the strength of the team in 2009. Besides a defensive standout, Cabrera's versatility allows head coach Eric White to be creative and catch teams off guard.

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They exchange glances.

It is all they need.

First-year Canyon head coach Eric White knows he only has one opportunity per game to use his sweeper in goal-scoring opportunities until the other team catches on.

It has worked on four occasions.

Senior captain Milan Cabrera scored against Quartz Hill, Ventura, Lancaster and Santa Barbara during pre-league play this season.

So what's the secret?

Desire.

"If it's in the air, it's either me or you, and you don't go up with 100 percent intensity, it is going to me," White says of Cabrera's mindset. "If you could choose anyone in this valley to score off their head, I would chose Milan. I would re-mortgage my house and put my money on (her)."

According to White, he doesn't play Cabrera, he "unleashes" her. And because of her versatility, Canyon becomes a "mystery team."

"Part of the mystery is Milan," White says. "You can put her anywhere and good luck trying to stop her."

She is devastating on set pieces because of her magnetism to the ball, and has become a potential goal-scoring force.

Sure, there are a lot of those in the Foothill League, but this one is a defensive mainstay, anchoring the team's back line.

It all starts at the sweeper position.

"Without knowing it, she gives our offense a certain confidence knowing she is back there," White says.

Her play ensures that even when the team is only up by a goal, they have a good chance of coming out on top.

Take the league opener against West Ranch as an example.

Canyon came out with a 1-0 win and held the Wildcats to only one shot on goal.

In 2009, Canyon's strength is its defense, and as the team's central defensive leader, Cabrera is the vocal and physical leader of that unit.

It can wreak havoc on an opposing team to have that same intensity converted into an offensive threat, especially late in the game. In fact, Cabrera recorded a shot on goal in Tuesday's win.

It doesn't matter where. The senior just loves being on the field.

"I just have a strong passion for the game," Cabrera says. "I like letting people play to their ability and when I see someone not, it frustrates me. I have a strong desire to play and to win. ‘Come on we can do this.'"

At times, that passion was easy to misunderstand.

The communication between Cabrera and the team has gone through an evolution this season.

"I've progressed a lot," Cabrera says. "At the beginning of the year I was very vocal in the wrong way. I'm more positive and try to encourage the other players instead of screaming and yelling."

However, White calls it more of a give-and-take, that many of the younger players weren't accustomed to that level of intensity.

Now things are clicking.

"Not only does she take charge, but everyone listens," Milan's sister Malaya says.

Therein, you will find the core of Milan.

Ask her any question and good luck finding a response that does not involve her teammates.

A two-time first-team Foothill League selection and a two-time member of The Signal's All-Santa Clarita Valley first team, she knows that it takes a cohesive team in order to be successful.

"Now that we are all comfortable with each other, we are pushing each other to do what we know we can do," she says.

It is that drive that has made Milan the dominant player she is today, but it is her team-first mentality drive that can lead to titles.

That may be her legacy, and her team has caught on.

"The way she plays and the heart of the game that she shows us is different from a lot of other players," Malaya says in her final season playing with her sister. "We have to have the heart and the emotion that she plays with."

After graduation, Milan will take her game to the next level, having already verbally committed to play at Oregon State University.


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