Soccer: Former IRHS star on a roll for TSAFC

2013-06-14T00:00:00Z Soccer: Former IRHS star on a roll for TSAFCDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 14, 2013 12:00 am  • 

There's a "D" next to Kaitlyn Lopez's name on the Tucson Soccer Academy FC roster.

As any soccer fan knows, the letter stands for defender. But in the first two matches of the team's inaugural season, it might just as easily mean destroyer.

While TSAFC breezed to 5-0 and 7-0 wins over St. George (Utah) United, the 19-year-old has already tallied four goals.

Not too shabby for someone who started both matches at outside back and also throws into the mix that she is returning from a knee injury that kept her out for more than a year.

At Ironwood Ridge High School, Lopez played up front and helped the Nighthawks reach the state playoffs in all four of her years. She netted 19 goals as a junior when Ironwood Ridge reached the 5A-II state title game.

Then, she joined the Arizona Wildcats where she was moved to the backline. But before she could play her first match for the UA, Lopez tore her right ACL in March 2012. After redshirting last season, she returned to play in the UA's four exhibitions this spring.

"I've been playing outside back for the U of A," Lopez said. "For the past two games, on this team, I've started the first half playing outside back and then in the second half I've been moved up to forward, which is what I've played most of my life.

"I'm having fun just kind of being free. It's more in my nature."

TSAFC coach Amy Garelick knows Lopez has the talent to make an impact at both ends of the field.

"She has a bright future," Garelick said. "She will most likely be playing in the back for the U of A, and for us she's scored four goals. It's interesting to see where she fits in with that group and where she fits in with our group.

"She's a very solid defender for us. But she's very effective up front, playing in a forward or midfielder role. Scoring four goals in two games is not bad odds for a defender."

Although her position might be a gray area, her feelings about being back on the field - anywhere - are clearly defined.

"It feels good to be back and not worrying about my knee," Lopez said. "This is actually the second knee that I've done. I did (the left knee) 4 1/2 years ago. The first time, I was a little bit more hesitant coming back. This one has been a lot easier, physically and mentally, to come back from."

The timing of TSAFC's entrance into the Women's Premier Soccer League couldn't have been better.

"For me, for all of us here, it's nice to have something in the summer to do where you're not dropping off a lot in competition," Lopez said. "You have a bunch of college players coming back together meaning the competition level stays high. It's important. You can't afford to take too much time off."

Time off won't be a concern for the Tucson native in the near future. After finishing the season with TSAFC, it will be time to start back with the Wildcats.

"I was born at (University Medical Center), so basically right on campus," Lopez said. "I'm third-generation at the U of A. My dad was actually homecoming king. Back in 1990, I think it was. I've always kind of said that I was a U of A princess, that I have U of A royalty in my blood."

From her first two games with TSAFC, it's clear she has goal-scoring in her blood, too.

Up next

• Who: Real Salt Lake women vs. Tucson Soccer Academy FC, 5:15 p.m.; Real Phoenix vs. FC Tucson, 7:30 p.m.

• When: Saturday

• Where: Kino Sports Complex North Field No. 5

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