Player of the Year: Herrera drives Harrison’s ‘bus’ to runner-up finish
by Adam Carrington
acarrington@mdjonline.com
June 15, 2013 04:28 PM | 1893 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Monica Herrera
Monica Herrera
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Harrison trailed by a goal in the first half of its state championship game against Parkview, and midfielder Monica Herrera sensed that the team had lost some confidence.

She remembered coach Steve Riccard telling her, “You can’t blame and control your teammates. You can only blame and control yourself.”

Herrera took it upon herself to give the Lady Hoyas a much-needed second-half spark. With Herrera anchoring the midfield, Harrison played more aggressive in the second half, and it was Herrera who tied the game at 1-all with a hard shot from 20 yards out.

Afterwards, she glanced in the direction of her coach to see his reaction.

“I saw him and he was so proud,” said Herrera, the 2013 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Girls Soccer Player of the Year. “It was so satisfying. I will never forget that.”

Herrera nearly scored a potential game-winner for Harrison late in the second half when her header off a free-kick attempt just missed the net.

Unfortunately, Herrera and her Harrison teammates couldn’t get the final result they wanted against Parkview. The Lady Hoyas ended up falling 2-1 on penalty kicks at Fifth Third Bank Stadium, a setting Herrera will grow more familiar with after signing a scholarship to play at Kennesaw State.

“What was cool about playing the championship game (at Kennesaw State), I was ending (high school) on the same field I will be beginning (college).”

Although Herrera cashed in on her penalty kick opportunity against Parkview, she couldn’t get enough help.

Despite the loss, she will be remembered as the team captain and leader on the field who helped lead Harrison to a 19-2 record.

“It was a sad moment, knowing that was how it was going to end, but I remember more of what an incredible season it was,” Herrera said. “The team chemistry was so undeniably strong, whether we won or lost.

Herrera’s stats weren’t overwhelming, as she finished with eight goals and seven assists. In soccer terminology, Herrera is described as a “holding midfielder,” thwarting opposing attackers and protecting her defenders.

Herrera said Riccard referred to her as the team’s “bus driver.” Having played soccer since she was 4, Herrera had developed great field vision, which helped her succeed at driving the team from the midfield.

“If there’s a good holding midfield in my system, we’re going to do well,” Riccard said. “She can go forward. She can defend. She can serve the ball, make free kicks and assists.”

But if the team needs Herrera to either score goals or assist them, she normally delivers. And the goal she scored against Parkview gave the Lady Hoyas enough spark to last through regulation and overtime.

Harrison beat Brookwood in the state semifinals on penalty kicks, with Herrera converting her only chance. She also had a goal in Harrison’s 5-1 win over East Coweta in the second round.

In the regular season, Herrera had a two-goal game in Harrison’s 5-1 win over Peachtree Ridge, and she assisted Harrison’s only goal in its 1-0 win over Lassiter in the season opener.

“She was the enthusiastic heart of the team,” Riccard said. “Other players fed off of her.”
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