Port Of Los Angeles High girls soccer opens off the 2014 CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division III playoffs today as the third seed of the tournament against No.14 USC-MAST, and one player in particular is aiming for another chance at a championship.
Junior forward Melissa Rodriguez, who currently has 8 goals and 7 assists this season, has been to two straight City Section Division III finals and like everyone else on the team, all she's looking for is another chance at a championship after two straight final losses to LACES, the No.2 seed who POLA could potentially run into in the semifinals.
"I think we definitely have a better chance of winning CIF because we have strong freshmen that are good defenders," said Rodriguez, referring to freshmen defenders Alyssa Medrano, Shawnie Carolla and Taylor Razevich-Temblador. "We have a great team and hopefully we'll win the championship."
The sport of soccer basically ran into Rodriguez who gradually little by little, grown into the sport.
"I played when I was younger but it was nothing serious," Rodriguez recalls. "I started loving soccer when I joined my middle school's soccer team in eighth grade."
Rodriguez started the 2014 season slow, but has picked it up in the final weeks of the season, providing a hat trick in a 7-0 win over Animo South Los Angeles on February 12, and scoring the final goal of a 9-0 win over Rancho Dominguez Prep on February 14. She also scored in the 8-0 win over Harbor Teacher Prep of Wilmington on February 7 that eventually clinched the Polar Bears' fourth consecutive Crosstown League title.
With 30 goals and 17 assists currently in her three-year career, Rodriguez says that her first goal in her first career game against Collins Family of Huntington Park during a 2012 season where POLA went 17-1, is her most memorable goal as a Polar Bear.
"My first game with POLAHS was very memorable since I didn't start the game," Rodriguez said. "But my coach (then Jennifer Kelly) out me in during the second half and I scored three goals which won the game. It made me feel more confident."
Rodriguez, who had a 3.5 GPA in in the fall semester, also enjoys the chemistry and camaraderie she has with her teammates in all aspects. "Recently, we had a team dinner (at Buono's Pizzeria in San Pedro). It was a lot of fun and probably the most memorable moment with my team," Rodriguez said.
POLA (14-3-4 overall) defeated USC-MAST, 5-0 in the first round last year, and Rodriguez scored that game's first two goals.
One thing is simple with Rodriguez, who's ultimate goal is to be a better defender, when it comes to soccer and playing soccer at POLA High.
"I love playing the game," Rodriguez says.