Whether they're a freshman or not, when a player scores 55 goals in a rain-shortened season, it's going to get noticed.
Thornton Fractional freshman Nicole Vega finished the 2013 schedule with 55 scores. If that isn't amazing enough, her total could have been closer to 70 had Vega's second-half minutes not been limited due to a few United blowouts.
Vega was convinced that despite her torrid offensive output, her age would hinder her from receiving any kind of recognition.
"When I got the news that I was all-area, I was just really happy," Vega said. "I really didn't think freshmen got noticed much. It was just kind of shocking to hear."
Not only is Vega an all-area selection, she is the Times 2013 Player of the Year. Vega helped lead Thornton Fractional United to a 14-5 record and an 8-3 mark in the South Suburban Blue Conference. Vega posted 12 goals in four games at the Reavis tournament and her seven-goal game against SSC foe Oak Lawn isn't something you're going to see every day out of a freshman.
"I do feel like I could have been pushed more," Vega said. "I think I could have scored more, but honestly, I was just thinking about winning the game. Playing on the varsity team, I learned a lot of things, things I never heard before."
A big reason for her success is that over the past eight years, Vega has developed a soccer relationship with standout teammate and United midfielder Monica Munoz. That rapport has contributed to a lot of success for the United in Vega's first year.
"Monica is a great player," Vega said. "I've been playing with Monica since I was about six years old. Playing with her, she's helped me with everything. She's probably the reason why I score my goals. She's mostly all of my assists. We have our own connection. I love playing with Monica."
United coach Alejandro Lagunas hasn't seen a player of Vega's caliber as a freshman, and he credits her skill set for much of her success in 2013.
"She's had the best freshman season of anybody I've ever coached," Lagunas said. "She's just really good at what she does. She's very strong on the ball, and she knows how to fight people off. She's a huge impact player."
Despite an early-season acclimating period, Vega likes her team and is optimistic about the United's chances in the coming years.
"I think we're a really good team," Vega said. "At first, I was like, I don't know anybody and we're not used to each other. But then you could see we were a really good team. I think if we would have pushed ourselves more, we would have made it farther in winning our regional games. I think we're a wonderful team."
The United have a strong duo of Vega and Munoz to look forward to the next two seasons.
"We're hoping to build off of what she did this year," Lagunas said, "and hopefully improve next year."