Piedmont senior soccer player Bianca Cardenas had plenty of motivation entering this season.
As part of the first senior class in the program’s history to play four, fully-sanctioned seasons, Cardenas has helped build the Lady Wildcats’ program from the ground up, so she wants her last season in blue and gold to be a special one.
Which meant when head coach Brad Brucker decided to rely heavily on younger, inexperienced players during preseason practices, Cardenas was skeptical.
“At first I was a little scared. I didn’t quite accept it,” she said. “But as practices went on they kept getting better and better. They’ve stepped up and I’ve been really impressed with them.”
“She’s our fastest player, our quickest player and has the best on the ball skill of any of our kids,” Brucker said. “Every time we do a competition she’s near the top because she’s so competitive.”
This season she’s added more than just goal scoring, though. Cardenas has taken command of this Lady Wildcats team, on and off the field.
“Bianca is a good goal scorer and she wants to score goals,” Brucker said. “But she’s our point guard now, when we’re going well she’s shifting defenses and distributing to the weak side of the field. That makes us so much better as a team.”
Like trusting younger players, taking leadership was something she was hesitant to do at first, but has embraced now.
“It’s great. Sometimes it can be stressful, but other than that it’s been a great experience,” she said. “You’re the leader of the team next to coach. It definitely motivates you knowing the team is on your shoulders. As seniors we know we have to be on top of our game at all times.”
The younger players that Cardenas was once slow to accept are the same players she relies on now. She says it’s become clear to her freshman like Caren Hidalgo create problems for the opposition, which makes things easier for everyone.
“It took some time to mesh, but once everybody started to understand each other off the field, I think things got a lot better on the field. Once we started meshing it definitely became a problem for other teams.”
Cardenas played in the state semifinals as a sophomore, then last season led Piedmont to the playoffs again, but lost in the first round. Something the entire team, not just Cardenas, refuse to let happen again.
“We have a ton of motivation,” Cardenas added. “We want to go to the finals and we have the talent to do it.”
That was evident over spring break, Cardenas said. Instead of going on vacation or resting during the week off of school when no practices were scheduled, many of the Lady Wildcats, led by Cardenas, chose to do voluntary 8 a.m. fitness sessions.
“We needed to stay focused. It’s motivated everyone to stay involved and in shape during this break,” she said. “I bet there aren’t many teams around the state that did what we were during spring break. Hopefully that makes a difference.”
Something that didn’t go unnoticed by Brucker.
“Bianca has done the best job of all of our seniors in being a leader on and off the field,” he said. “That’s a really cool thing. I’m very proud of her for that.”