Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 | midnight
Alex Holland had warmed up for hundreds of soccer games in her life. Little did she know this warm-up would end in disaster.
Minutes before Holland's Bishop Gorman girls soccer team was set to play its second preseason game last season at Coronado, the then-junior goalkeeper practiced a few drop kicks.
During one kick, Holland's left plant foot stepped in a hole, leaving her off balance and sending her right foot crashing to the ground on the follow through.
"I basically kicked the ground and my foot snapped," Holland said. "All I remember is falling to the ground. It was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. I knew right away I was done."
Holland, a full-time starter as a freshman and sophomore, missed the remainder of the season after tearing nearly all the ligaments in her right ankle. Missing so many games was hard enough, but Holland took the injury particularly hard because she had dedicated her season to the memory of Victor Arbelaez, who coached Gorman for 22 seasons before dying last fall.
"That's why it was so hard for me to sit out," Holland said. "Not for my ego or anything. But I wanted to put my heart into it for Vic. It was really hard being on the sideline. Even though I was always there supporting my team, I wanted so badly to be out there."
Though she had to watch as Gorman fell in the Sunset Regional finals to Centennial, Holland returned in time for her club season with SC Las Vegas. She also participated in an Olympic Development Program camp over the summer with 10 of the best goalkeepers from 13 states on the West Coast.
"She did physical therapy, did the weight room, worked on upper body, cardio and fitness — she really pushed herself," said Nick Arbelaez, Gorman's third-year coach who took over full-time after his father passed.
Holland's injury didn't have much of an affect on her recruiting prospects. She signed with the University of Louisiana at Monroe last month.
Holland chose Louisiana at Monroe because it has three former Gorman players on its roster — sophomores Samantha Cashman and Tiffany Bombard, as well as freshman Maddy Ocon.
"(Louisiana at Monroe) will be a comfortable fit for her," Arbelaez said. "They haven't had a solid goalkeeper, and she will push the upperclassmen there because that's the way she is. Alex brings a different kind of intensity to the game than most girls I've ever coached. She is a leader. She's one of a kind."
Before she reaches the next level, Holland is eager to make up for the year she lost. Through her initial two starts this winter, Holland has given up one goal.
"It's my senior year, my last go at it," Holland said. "I'm the last generation of girls to be coached by Vic, so I want to win (state) now more than ever. He always told us to strive for excellence, and that's what we'll do this year."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].