Kicking goals into the future

Senior reflects on dedication and improvement in soccer


Emalee Cyphers

Playing against MacArthur on Feb. 5, Mendoza works on her skills often in hopes to finish her last season on a strong note. She has played on the varsity team for the past four years. “My personal goals for this season are to get more goals and assists than I did last year,” Mendoza said. “And also to get first team all district again.”

By Rebecca Covington, Smithson Valley High School

Damita Mendoza knows what pressure is. Her heartbeat echoes in her ears as she ties up her cleats, fingers fiddling with the laces. She remembers these words to herself: Do not get discouraged. Do not forget your role. Just brush the grass off your legs and keep running. Keep leading.

As one of three senior team captains, Mendoza leads her team through practices and games every week. Recently named one of San Antonio Express News’ Class 6A players to watch, her strengths as a captain and player have garnered attention.

Attention is nothing new to Mendoza. Starting on varsity for all four years of high school, she worked hard to meet what was expected of her while under a watchful eye, especially as a freshman.

“Being a freshman on varsity put a lot of pressure on me because I was expected to keep up and play with people who were much older than me,” Mendoza said. “After I moved into starting back line, the seniors began to see me as their equal. I was able to build confidence knowing they trusted me.”

Playing the positions of midfield and defense, she helped her team be named District Champions and reach the quarterfinals of the 6A state playoffs her freshman year. Mendoza hopes to end her senior season on a strong note, working to reach similar achievements.

“My goals for this season are to help my team win district champs,” Mendoza said, “and go are far as we can in playoffs for my last year here.”

After receiving all district honors as a freshman, sophomore and junior, she hopes to end her senior year by increasing her stats and leaving a personal legacy on Ranger soccer. As of Feb. 11, she had 7 goals and averaged 1.4 goals per game.

“Being my last year playing here,” Mendoza said, “I hope to honor all the hard work we have all put in to this team and playing our best.”

Not only does Mendoza focus on playing her personal best, but she pushes and guides her teammates to improve and reflect upon their own skills.

“Damita encourages others to do their best, and not let anyone drop their head when they have made a mistake,” fellow team captain  senior Jewelia Anton said. “She will push you to become a better player.”

Despite the rigor and intensity of the game, Mendoza finds ways to enjoy the sport by focusing on improving herself and cultivating friendships and connections with her teammates. One of her favorite soccer memories highlights this.

“My team was being split up because the age groups were being changed, so [the nationals game in Colorado a few years ago] was my last time playing with the club team I had played with for five years,” Mendoza said. “Knowing that most of us would never play together again, we performed together so well our last game. It was the best feeling knowing that we ended our last season in the best way possible.”

Mendoza started playing soccer at four years old. She continued the game for the next 13 years of her life, participating in both club soccer with Lonestar Soccer Club and later Classics Elite ECNL club team, and school teams from seventh grade to her senior year. These years of experience and playing with a variety of players contributed to Mendoza’s advanced skills and teamwork ethic as a player.

“She leads with her skill,” Anton said. “She is a leader on the field by communicating to the younger players. She creates many opportunities for us to go forward with the ball and creates chances for our forwards and outside mids to score.”

Mendoza plans to continue playing soccer at the collegiate level at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri. The next game is at home Feb. 15 at New Braunfels.

This story was originally published on Valley Ventana on February 14, 2019.