In order to snag one of the top four positions in the deep and talented Northern 3A’s Sierra League, the Railroaders are looking toward their field general Jackie Mendoza.
“She might be the best center midfielder I have ever coached. She just understands the game so well,” Sparks girls soccer coach Jerry Miller said. “She is the field general when she’s out there in the middle…She’s the nucleus of everything that happens on the field. She never runs out of gas. I know she’s banged up right now, but she never complains. She just keeps on playing.”
Mendoza, a second team all-leaguer a year ago, is leading the team in goals this year with seven. Most recently, she had a goal and an assist in a much-needed 2-1 win over Whittell.
The senior is also one of the captains on the team. She said she enjoys the added responsibility, but it is a challenge because she doesn’t bark out orders at her teammates. That’s just fine with Miller though.
“She doesn’t scream at kids. The kids respect her because she leads by example,” Miller said. “The kids want to play like her. That’s the kind of captain I want. She does it quietly, goes about her business and everyone follows.”
Currently, Sparks sits at 5-6 overall and 2-4 in league play. It will take a strong push by the local school to make the postseason with the addition of South Tahoe to the league.
Still, Mendoza is enjoying her final season in the Maroon and Gold.
“It’s been fun because it’s my last year, and we have a lot of freshman who I think will do well over the next few years,” Mendoza said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I think it’s the best year I’ve had since I started playing here. There are a lot of good girls and we play well together.”
Part of the reason this season has been fun is her younger sister, Jackie, is on the team as a sophomore.
“It’s really cool because I haven’t played with her since elementary school and we kind of know each other, so it’s like playing with myself pretty much,” Mendoza said.
Miller believes that once Jackie is out of the shadow of Jessica, she will become a blossoming player as well. But he’s very grateful for the past three years that Mendoza has starred on the team.
“Jessica has been a great kid. The years she’s been here in our program, it’s been a pleasure to have her,” Miller said.
Sparks starts the second half of its league schedule on the road today at North Tahoe. Kickoff for the girls game is at 4 p.m.