Preciosa Villanueva does what needs to be done for Clark soccer.
Coach Mary Eggers calls her “the center of the them,” a designation that the Pioneers senior earned right from the jump.
“Whatever she does she does it at 100 percent,” Eggers said. “As far as leadership goes, she has mastered it. She is helpful, dependable and wiser than her years. I wish I could say that her great attributes were a result of our program, but our program is actually better for what she has brought into it.”
As a freshman, Clark’s squad was without an experienced goalie. Villanueva, in her first season of organized soccer, stepped between the pipes.
“For some reason, being a keeper isn't something girls in our program want to volunteer for so nobody was jumping at the opportunity,” Villanueva said. “Since it was my first year playing soccer and I didn't have a position or spot yet, I figured I would try something that was intimidating.”
After her sophomore year, her hip just didn’t feel right during training and conditioning.
“It started at first as just a small ache, and as I ran more the pain grew,” Villanueva said. “I was always told to push through but as a young player I didn't know the difference between soreness and actual pain.”
She had a torn labrum and would need surgery to repair it and shave some of the bone.
“I missed my entire junior year, which was pretty depressing,” she said. “I learned to be more vocal when something doesn't feel right. I feel that a lot of what I dealt with could have been avoided if I would have said something earlier.”
Still, Villanueva didn’t sulk and stay home in bed. The program needed her.
“She didn't miss a day,” Eggers said. “She gave everything she possibly could to her girls.
“She goes above and beyond to be the best she can possibly be. She is the hardest worker our program has known.”
Villanueva captains the Clark defense in her final campaign in Robertsdale.
“It is great (having Villanueva back),” Eggers said. “I am so happy for her because I know how hard it was for her to sit on the sidelines. Obviously she is an asset to us, but it's more about her not missing out on her last year of high school soccer.”
Villanueva’s voice smooths over everything for Clark’s backfield. She also sets a level of expectation for the Pioneers, making sure the younger kids have the equipment ready, everybody is everywhere on time and nobody’s taking a break on the pitch.
“I play soccer for the clarity I feel after a game or even just practice. The sport is something that helps clear my mind,” Villanueva said. “No matter what what problems or conflicts I have before I play, during and after the game my mind clears and the only thing that matters is playing my best.”