Alex Lazo spent his first three years playing soccer at Watsonville High but the team colors he sported weren’t exactly black and gold.
However, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 160-pound defender decided to put on a Wildcatz’s jersey for his senior year, hoping that he’d make the most of it on his first and only run with the team.
And boy did he.
Lazo was a huge presence for a Wildcatz defense that recorded nine shutouts and went on to capture the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division championship.
The coaches within the division also agreed that Lazo was by far the best player this season, naming him the Most Valuable Player.
“I sort of wanted to leave a footprint here, like I did something here,” Lazo said.
He was also named to the all-league first team along with three of his teammates.
Joining him were seniors Eric Vazquez, who was second on the team in goals (11) and assists (7), and Danny Medina, who recorded several clean sheets as one of two goalkeepers.
Junior Jael Leal also made the all-league first team. He finished with a team-high 18 goals and nine assists for Watsonville (16-4-2), which went unbeaten en route to a PCAL-G title.
The Wildcatz also returned to the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs and earned a trip back to the CIF NorCal playoffs.
Seniors Jeremiah Lopez, Adrian Madueno and Alexis Valenzuela, along with sophomore Lombardo Flores, made the all-league second team.
Senior Julian Garcia was named to the Richard Chamberlin All-Sportsmanship Team.
“I’m going to miss the practices,” Lazo said. “Not just with our teammates but sometimes our coaches would join in with us and that’s what really made us feel like a family. We’re all brothers and we’re all here.”
Lazo spent his first three years at Watsonville High playing soccer for the Santa Cruz Breakers, a local soccer club made up of players from around Santa Cruz County.
It’s a move that players make to possibly be recognized by college scouts or improve their skills.
However, Lazo said it probably wasn’t the best move looking back at it.
“I wish I would’ve stayed here because I feel like if I would’ve, I would have been more known since my freshman year,” he said. “As an individual, I see myself as a leader and I feel like I could’ve inspired other players and feel like we could’ve taken it at least one of the years.”
Lazo said he decided to join the Wildcatz during his senior year to see what it felt like to play in front of a true home crowd. He also wanted to win the Gabilan division title.
“I just wanted to get that feeling and know what it’s like before I graduate from here,” he said.
Lazo didn’t put up the spectacular numbers—he scored a goal against King City and recorded two assists—but his defensive effort was top-notch. He stayed in the backfield as a pure defender, as longtime coach Roland Hedgpeth put it.
“He was purely defense,” Hedgpeth said. “I think he was the strongest we had.”
Hedgpeth said the coaches of the PCAL Gabilan mentioned that the defense was his team’s strongest unit this season. They wanted to go with the best defensive player on the team for MVP, which in the coaches’ eyes was Lazo.
“I just wish I would have had him for a couple of more years,” Hedgpeth said.
Lazo said his biggest challenge this season was getting the coaches to recognize him and showing them what he was capable of doing.
“My whole goal was to achieve that challenge and get through the coaches, let them know that I belong here,” he said.
Lazo received his MVP plaque at the team banquet. His parents, who own both La Santa Cruz Bakery shops in Watsonville, broke down in tears of joy.
Lazo said his parents wake up at 3 a.m. almost every day, providing him with opportunities to practice and play throughout the year.
That strong work ethic rubbed off, he said.
“Everything is for them,” he said. “I want to make my parents proud 100 percent more than anyone.”
Editor’s Note: This article will be published in the March 20 edition of The Pajaronian.