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Rodriguez Shows Her Talent on World Stage

Times Staff Writer

Excuse Amy Rodriguez if she feels like she has the world at her feet, like so many soccer balls.

The fleet-footed Santa Margarita senior has gone from taking care of business as a member of the U.S. under-17 national team to joining the senior national team in a matter of months. And now, after years of idolizing Mia Hamm, Rodriguez has an opportunity to help fill the void left by the legend’s recent retirement.

“It definitely blows me away,” said Rodriguez, The Times’ girls’ soccer player of the year. “You dream of making the national team, but still, you never really think that it’ll happen now.”

Rodriguez, 17, was selected to the under-19 national team’s roster for the 2004 World Championships in November. She had two goals and two assists in that tournament as the U.S. beat Brazil, 3-0, in the bronze-medal match. After attending her first under-21 team training camp, she was called up to the senior national team last month.

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Rodriguez was the only high school player on the U.S. squad that won its third consecutive Algarve Cup with a 1-0 victory over Germany in the final in Portugal two weeks ago. She did not score but played in two games -- against Finland and Denmark -- and gained invaluable experience in her first tournament with the national team.

She also was selected last month as the Gatorade national player of the year.

“This last month has been pretty crazy,” Rodriguez said. “It was an awesome experience being able to play with those girls [on the national team]. It was just such an opportunity because you’re not just playing with them. You’re living with them, getting to know them and learning from them.”

Rodriguez, a speedy 5-foot-3 senior forward with an explosive first step and excellent touch, spent the recently completed season teaching other high school players a thing or two.

“She meant a lot to us,” Santa Margarita Coach Chuck Morales said. “Her level this last year, like, tripled. It was like a light bulb went off in her head. All of a sudden, she was just light years ahead of everybody else, and she was making everybody better because they were playing with her.”

Rodriguez, who will play at USC next season, finished with 17 goals and seven assists in only 15 games for Santa Margarita. The Eagles (16-4-2) lost to eventual Southern Section Division I champion Los Alamitos, 1-0, in the semifinals March 1 while Rodriguez was traveling with the national team to the Algarve Cup.

Rodriguez was sorry to have to miss the game but kept the big picture in mind.

“It was hard to tell the other girls,” she said at the time. “But at the same time, all of them are very supportive of me, and it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I have to take it.”

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Now, Rodriguez is focused on trying to capitalize on her big chances, score goals and make a good impression.

“Now that I’m here, I’ve got to keep working hard,” she said. “But I’m excited because I’ve got everything ahead of me. It’ll be exciting to find out what I can become.”

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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The Times’ All-Star

Girls’ Soccer Team

*--* FIRST TEAM F Bo Medina, Los Alamitos Jr. Southern Section Division I offensive player of the year finished with 14 goals and 18 assists in leading Griffins to the title with a goal and assist in the final. F Amy Rodriguez, Santa Margarita Sr. Youngest member of U.S. national team led the Eagles to the Division I semifinals. She has an opportunity to help fill the void left by the retirement of Mia Hamm. F Marihelen Tomer, Diamond Ranch Sr. Overcame serious health issues to excel for the Diamondbacks and, with 49 goals, came close to reaching her target of 50 in a season. She is headed to USC. F McCall Zerboni, San Clemente Sr. Two-time Division I player of the year settled for first-team honors this year after recording 13 goals and seven assists. She’ll play at UCLA. M Hayley Bolt, Los Alamitos Sr. Long Beach State signee and Division I defensive player of the year came through on offense too, finishing with 16 goals and eight assists in Griffins’ title season. M Janessa Currier, Walnut Sr. Two-time Division III defensive player of the year could have been the offensive player of the year after scoring 30 goals this season. She’ll play at USC. M Caitlyn MacKechnie, Oaks Christian Sr. Finished with 15 goals and 10 assists, but her field leadership was more important to the Lions’ three consecutive Division V co-championships. She is headed to UCLA. D Sara Baca, Buena Sr. Long Beach State-bound sweeper was a clutch performer who led the Bulldogs to 16 shutouts and the Division II title. She had seven goals and five assists. D Lauren Bustos, Flintridge Sacred Heart Jr. Mission League MVP did not allow her marks to score all season as the Tologs gave up one goal or less in 20 of 23 games and never surrendered more than two. D Kasey Moore, Capistrano Valley Sr. Defensive midfielder, who had nine goals and five assists, has earned a call-up to the under-21 national team and is attending a Nordic Cup training camp this week. G Erin Henry, Mater Dei Sr. Had a 0.92 goals-against average, posted 13 shutouts and was an experienced hand on a young team that went to the Division I final. She’s headed to UC Irvine. Coach of the Year: Matty West, Mater Dei Fourth-year coach guided a team that included 14 freshmen and sophomores to the Monarchs’ first appearance in a Division I championship game since 1992. SECOND TEAM F Coco Kleinert, Flintridge Prep Sr. F Shannon Omahen, Canyon Country Canyon Sr. F Jessica Sharpe, Sunny Hills Jr. M Erin Bay, Los Alamitos Yr. M Ashley Bowyer, Aliso Niguel Jr. M Kristina Larsen, Mission Viejo Jr. M Katie Oakes, El Camino Real Jr. M Megan Petrik, Capistrano Valley Sr. D Jamie Alvis, Los Alamitos Sr. D Kiki Bosio, Santa Margarita Jr. G Alyse Quiroz, Buena Sr.

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