Maria Vargas will do whatever it takes to get to this year’s city league soccer championship, even if it means doggedly training all year long.
The East Boston High senior has been preparing for the season all summer by playing in the women’s soccer league in Chelsea, working with a personal trainer and even scrimmaging with boys and grown men.
“I don’t want them to show any mercy,” the Jets’ captain said of playing in the women’s league every Sunday night. “I don’t let them hold themselves back because I want to get stronger. I’ve gotten so much quicker because it’s been challenging.
“I never doubt myself anymore.”
You can also find the midfielder at Airport Field in East Boston every night after work, where she scrimmages boys from East Boston. She credits much of her skill to these boys who motivate her to play when she’s tired and are patient with her when she needs help.
“It’s definitely tough,” she said. “Some guys there are 40 years old, some play AAU club soccer…They’re amazing. Once I get by them, I feel so accomplished. They scream ‘Oh you just got messed by a girl.’ ”
But scrimmaging with the boys isn't enough for Vargas. That's where the women's soccer league comes into play. The league does not have an age limit, consisting of older and more talented girls from all over the city, which Vargas believes has contributed to her growth as a player. However, she didn’t enter the league as confident as she is now.
“At first, I was intimidated,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh man, these girls are doing this in college ... they’re so much better than me.’ Then when I started playing with them, it was like playing with people my own age. If you work hard, it just becomes easy.”
Through the league, she also got experience in positions she wouldn’t normally play, such as defense. Since she will start the season as center midfielder, a position she has always strived to play, she is grateful for the defensive experience.
The byproduct of her hard work on the field is clear after getting chosen to play in a tournament at Bunker Hill, one of only three girls. She was surprised and proud that she was one of them.
East Boston coach Richard La Cara, however, was not surprised.
“She plays any position,” he said. “She likes center mid, but sometimes I need her on defense, even as goalie a couple times, and she always does a great job.”
Vargas hopes that her hard work will get her scouted by UMASS Amherst into their Division 1 soccer program. She also plans to try out for a Women’s Premier Soccer League team Aztec MA, which plays all over New England.
Despite all of her work and aspirations, she believes she’s at her best with her high school team.
“As much as I love playing in the summer, it doesn’t compare to my city team,” she said. "We've been the same team since freshman year, really, so we’ve been playing together for a long time. We communicate so well and made a lot of progress last season. My coach is amazing and supportive, too.”
Vargas is determined to help the Jets to make it to the Boston City League championships this year and finally defeat their rival, Brighton.
“They’ve always been our rivals,” she said. “In the last final though, we thought they’d dominate us, but they only made one goal. We lost 1-0, but it was a game to remember. We did lose a lot of seniors, but so did Brighton. The competition will be fierce this season but it’s nothing we can’t overcome.”
Vargas and her four other co-captains are already getting their team prepared for this season. They got teammates to attend the boys’ scrimmages, which she said helps with their kick and form.
“She’s the heart and soul of the team, always trying to make other players better, not just herself, which is why I chose her as a captain,” La Cara said. “I’d like my daughter to be like Maria. She goes to church, works in the community, gets excellent grades, and is just a great leader.”
Vargas also creates work outs for the team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and runs on the beach on Fridays. She will continue to recruit as many girls as she can to play for the Jets, as long as they are committed, and take the team seriously.
“Getting to the city league championship is going to take a lot of practice and a lot of time. But we have time; we just need to be patient,” Vargas said. “If we’re all committed, we’ll be able to win.”
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