BY TJ GARCIA
McALLEN – Sharyland’s Kaitie Watson is unmistakable on the field.
The 5-foot-2 midfielder’s fiery red hair nearly matches the crimson uniform she wears for the Rattlers. But while that might catch your eye, it’s her dazzling soccer skills that got the notice of her teammates, opponents and ultimately UTRGV’s soccer coaches.
Watson signed on to play with the D-1 Vaqueros last month, but soccer may have never become the love of the athletic 120-pounder’s life. At age five, she was give a choice between soccer and dance. Watson chose to play outside so she could run and kick with a team. Once that decision was made, Watson went full bore and has never looked back.
“It felt like it was for me, and I just stuck with it,” said Watson. “I just think soccer is so much more different than other sports where you have set plays and stuff. Soccer is all about creativity and free will. I like doing that better than something that is designated all the time. I can do whatever I want out there with soccer.”
She actually can almost do whatever she wants out there. Through last weekend, she has scored 137 career goals including four last Friday against Laredo Cigarroa. Tonight will be the last time she lines up against friendly rival and nemesis Sharyland Pioneer on the Diamondbacks’ home turf. It will be one of the biggest soccer games of the year in the RGV.
Even with the myriad of female soccer stars that have recently come out of the RGV, Watson still stands outs. Her attention to detail; her nose for the ball; her ability to play with different sets of players; and her demonstrated determination to overcome injury, find her groove again and receive a scholarship to play D-1 soccer all point to her high-level talents.
Oh, by the way, Watson has a 3.88 GPA and is ranked 16thin her class at Sharyland, too boot. She knows it’s her last year in high school, and she’d like to out with a bang – win district and make a deep playoff run.
Watson, who plays with STX Houston Dynamo, exploded onto the high school girls soccer scene four years ago and was named Newcomer of the Year by The Monitor for her astounding 48 goals. Next year was no sophomore jinx. With opponents armed with film, and coaches keying defenses on her, she still found the net 32 times.
She struggled through her junior year after injuring her right knee, but Watson still managed to score 15 goals and dish out seven assists in limited action. Now as a senior, she seems to be fully healthy and back on her game. Watson has found the net 42 times and handed out 15 assists in 2018 and still has four regular-season games to go plus the playoffs.
And while her primary role with the Rattlers has been to score. Watson says she plays wherever the team needs her, but she’s more comfortable as a distributor, a giver, much like her off-the-field personality.
“I enjoy wanting to help rather than doing for myself,” said Watson, 18. “That’s how I’ve always been. I’m a very giving, nice person. I feel like I’m that on and off the field. When I give the ball away, I could have taken a shot. I love to be able to set people up. It makes me feel good that I helped out rather than just scoring.”
If Watson gets into that midfielder distributor kind of role at UTRGV, she will be in soccer heaven. The Vaqueros have several dangerous forwards, including McHi’s Anaa Hover, who played with Watson on the Dynamo club team, among others. UTRGV is poised to improve with a young squad coming off a 9-8-3 season.
Watson is back to full strength and ready for her next challenge. However, she’s quick to say without working with Jaime Cavazos at CSI Sports Training and Performance, she may not have been able to wholly re-establish her confidence, much less her strength and stamina to make a comeback.
“It took her a while to accept that she had a knee injury. Once she accepted it, she put in all the work to become bigger and stronger than she was before,” said Cavazos. “She has become more athletic. She’s a very quiet leader. She lets her game speak for itself.”
And her game speaks volumes.