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Injuries have not curtailed Caballero's aggression | Girls soccer
A dark bruise rested just below her left eye.
For South Kitsap senior Miranda Caballero, it is just part of playing midfield.
Caballero plays that position with a physical style. But it is not because she is trying to bully opponents.
"I don't like people thinking they can get around me," she said. "Last time I fell down, I got hurt. I try and hold firm."
That last time was in 2011 during club season.
"I cut in and went to pull the ball back," Caballero said. "She pushed me and my knee went the other way."
The result was a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee that sidelined Caballero for the Wolves' 2011 season. Caballero, who has played soccer since she was 4 years old, did not realize how much she would miss the sport until she was without it.
"I pushed myself through the pain to get back out there," she said.
South coach Julie Cain said that was apparent when Caballero was running six months after her surgery.
"Miranda has come back stronger than her sophomore year," she said. "She was really committed through her surgery. She came back strong and fit."
Caballero's return sparked discussion about whether the Wolves could contend for a state championship. But that was before Becca Schoales, who generally is regarded as the top player in the state, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during club season. Caballero said her first thought was not about how Schoales' departure would affect the team, though.
"It was heartbreaking," Caballero said. "I just thought about her hurting herself and it's tough getting that confirmation. I kind of just try to tell her to keep pushing forward. I just talk her through it and help keep her spirits up."
While accepting that she would not be able to play during her junior season was difficult, Caballero said returning has been easy. Some athletes struggle with fears of getting injured again, but Caballero said that with the exception of being assertive, she rarely thinks about it.
"When you've played your whole life, you don't focus on anything else," she said.
Cain said that mentality is a significant reason behind Cabellero's success. Rather than thinking, she said Caballero is intuitive and reacts well.
"She's aware of what's around her and can switch at the point of attack," Cain said. "She sets the pace of the game really well in the midfield. She is just a presence in the middle of the field. She's strong and wins balls."
Cabellero initially was a goalkeeper when she started playing — the position held by her older sister, Jordan — but moved to midfield about a year later. She never has returned.
"I love midfield," Caballero said. "I feel like I can do more there. I like having an assist [on goals]."
She hopes to play that position next season, possibly at Middle Tennessee State University or Washington University in St. Louis. Caballero said she was contact by both schools after they saw her at separate events during club season. Caballero said she plans to visit MTSU in October, but has not set a timetable for making a commitment.
Wherever she heads, Caballero hopes to pursue a medical degree. She eventually wants to become an anesthesiologist. When she was two months old, doctors detected that Schoales had Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children and infants that involves inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. That inspired her desire to become a cardiologist.
For Caballero, surgery spawned a passion. She broke her nose during a club soccer match and required surgery.
"The surgery was over just like that," Caballero said. "It was just intriguing."
She said that experience led to her interest in becoming an anesthesiologist. Caballero and Schoales often joke about working together professionally.
"I'll knock them out and you can perform the surgery," Caballero said, laughing.
But first, Caballero wants to focus on her final high-school season. The Class 4A Narrows League could feature as few as three teams advancing to the playoffs. Washington Interscholastic Activities Association officials have yet to make a final determination on how many schools playoff berths the league will receive.
Because of that, Caballero said the 1-0 loss Sept. 18 at Olympia particularly was difficult — South outshot the Bears 18-5 during that match — but she believes her team will recover.
"It just made us stronger," Caballero said. "We know what we're capable of."