HARLINGEN — Grit. Moxie. Toughness. Whatever you want to call it, Harlingen High freshman Maya Quinones has it.
“Maya’s the type of player that will give you heart,” Lady Cardinals coach Debra Galvan said. “It’s very hard to find a player with a lot of heart nowadays. … The minute she steps on that field, she is going to leave it all on that field.”
Quinones thrived in her first season at Harlingen High as a defensive starter and excelled on the attacking end of the field as a forward and wing, tallying nine assists and three goals. She is The Valley Morning Star’s 2020 All-STAR Girls Soccer Newcomer of the Year.
“Maya … has helped the team tremendously at every position we played her,” Galvan said. “We’re very proud of her.”
Playing for the Sting club team in San Antonio helped Quinones acclimate quickly to the high school game.
“It was a new challenge for me,” Quinones said. “Every game was a new challenge. It was fun, and it was nice knowing I had a team behind me to help me and go through all of it together. It wasn’t that big of a transition, because my team accepted me from the start. It was like a big family.”
Her coach noted that she lacked the fear and timidity that some players succumb to when they are new to the varsity stage. But Galvan said Quinones battled for every ball and excelled in every position she was asked to play.
“Wherever she needed to put me, I gave it my all,” Quinones said. “It was a lot of pressure, but I did what I could and I gave it my all.”
Quinones’ aggressive style helped the Lady Cardinals plug in a hole as a forward/wing and provided Harlingen High with a much-needed spark.
“Maya has that go-getter attitude,” Galvan said. “We had struggled to get a wing that was able to attack the goal like we wanted them to, so to see her on the defensive side attacking and moving up, we figured, ‘Let’s try her’. … She took over that position easily.”
Quinones knows her small stature and affable demeanor may deceive opponents who overlook her abilities. But she said she’s constantly driven by the opportunity to come through for her teammates and supporters.
“It just comes naturally,” Quinones said. “I want to win every game. … And just make sure you don’t let anyone down, because a lot of people expect a lot (from me). It just happens on the field, a whole different person comes out.”
While her offensive workload increased, the importance of her role of guarding the back line also grew. In a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Brownsville Hanna on Feb. 4, Quinones notched the go-ahead goal and helped goalkeeper Erianah Zapata keep a clean sheet during the second half.
“We also knew that if we needed to defend, we could move her back and she’d be able to stop players from penetrating through to the goal,” Galvan said. “We just saw her skill, and we knew we were going to be able to use her on the sides (of the field).”
In a competitive District 32-6A race, Quinones’ all-around game was a crucial component of Harlingen High’s push to clinch a playoff berth.
“She has a lot of talent, and a lot of skill,” Galvan said. “To know that we have her for another three years, it’s a blessing to have her out there on that field with us.”