By Yasmine Saenz
Despite all kinds of setbacks this season, Pueblo Magnet High School Girls’ Soccer Team ended the season with a very impressive record of 9-3. Throughout the season, this team had their sights on making it all the way to State. And, at last they did, on Tuesday, February 2.
However, the girls lost to Youngker High School in Buckeye, Arizona with a dramatic loss of 3-2.
Mr. Ricardo Hinds, who has coached the team for the past two years, said, “Even when players struggled with their grades, as well as all of the numerous injuries and drop-outs the team experienced, the team had a core of 12-13 players who committed to the program. It is always tough during the second half of the season with no substitutes, but we finished strongly.”
After the loss at State, Coach Hinds added, “I am very proud of all of them. They all contributed at some point to the success of this season.”
Although the team lost in the first round of State playoffs, the team still felt like overall champions. The team persevered despite a lot of adversity throughout the season. Many players quit and several became ineligible due to their academics.
“Even though we started off a little rough this season, the team really pulled together and stayed a family,” junior and co-captain Anna Verdugo said.
“Considering all of the obstacles we faced from the beginning of the season, going to State was truly a miracle. Having a great coach and committed players kept us together like glue, especially towards the end of the season.”
“In the end, we were still together,” said senior Yulissa Tarango, another one of the four captains this season. “Somehow we made the season work despite all of the challenges that we experienced.” She paused and added, “We became stronger as a result and learned from our weaknesses. Hopefully, some of the younger players will be a better team next year because of the mistakes we made this season.”
Hinds believes that the younger members on the team will be even stronger next year—and hopes for another opportunity to coach next season. He said that the team is capable of playing different systems, including possession and counter-attack—as well as a combination of both.
“I feel that this season was better than last year [when the team also earned a spot in the State playoffs],” Coach Hinds said, “and that’s a great trend. This is very important for the continuous success of the program, and I hope to have a lot of those girls back next year.
One of “those girls” Hinds is referring to is junior Avae Velasquez, who Coach Hinds said is this season’s most improved player.
“It’s amazing that Coach Hinds recognized my hard work and devotion to the team this season,” Velasquez said. “Thanks to my coach’s guidance and advice, I was able to improve quickly. He believed in me, and I wholeheartedly believe that made me a better player.”
Hinds is serious about being a soccer coach. He has been a coach for four years for the Arizona Olympic Development Program, as well as a coach staff instructor for the Arizona Youth Soccer Association, said the he plans to coach next year, and start earlier recruitment for girls to join the team. Also, Hinds is currently a Pima County Junior Soccer League Director of Coaching, and a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Hinds, a native of Venezuela, has lived in Tucson for 25 years, and holds a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. He is currently a board member of the Lupus Foundation of Southern Arizona.