Better not overlook the ‘small girl’ on the St. Teresa’s soccer team

05/08/2014 6:20 PM

05/08/2014 6:20 PM

When Savannah Trujillo arrived at St. Teresa’s Academy for her freshman year, she joined the golf team on a bit of whim. She wanted to try something new, and her grandma convinced her golf would be a fine choice.

But it didn’t stick. Trujillo quit after one season.

“I like to do things very fast,” Trujillo said. “Having to do everything patiently and slowly, that was (difficult).”

Walking a nine-hole golf course over three hours didn’t exactly fit the fast-paced lifestyle Trujillo had grown to love.

But 80 minutes on a soccer field? She’s never felt more at home.

“I can play with pace. I can play with energy. I can play with aggressiveness,” Trujillo said.

The list goes on. In fact, there’s not much Trujillo — the reigning pick for The Star’s All-Metro girls soccer player of the year — can’t do on a soccer field.

She’s the conductor of a train heading down a path reserved for the nation’s elite teams. One national website has already pegged the Stars as the No. 1 high school team in the country.

While St. Teresa’s Academy, 13-0, is endowed with a flock of future Division I soccer players — including Trujillo, who has signed with Missouri — it relies on just one to pave the way.

The one who plays with extraordinary pace.

“We’re very blessed with a lot of talent, but she sets the tempo of the game,” St. Teresa’s Academy coach Jeremy McElduff said. “When she gets it, she doesn’t stop and look around. She generally knows what she wants to do with it. And when she plays fast, everybody plays fast.”

The source of the energy, speed, athleticism and oft-noted exceptional first touch bears the look of anything but a powerful future Division I athlete.

Trujillo stands only 5 feet 2 — “and a quarter,” she pleads — and appears much too slim to hold her own in a physically-demanding game.

You’d be surprised.

“The first time I saw her play was the fall of her freshman year when she was playing for her club team,” McElduff said. “She was five-foot-nothing, but so fast. And nobody could push her around. Every time she got it, she was going to goal. I loved seeing a young player just turn and attack the goal with confidence.”

Trujillo was talented enough to make the varsity team as a freshman. And unlike her brief nibble with golf, she never relinquished her spot.

Instead, she worked to refine specific parts of her game while making the transition from a center forward to an attacking midfielder. The most obvious work has come on the defensive end, but not at the expense of her offense.

In her first full season in the midfield, McElduff told Trujillo he expected more production and wanted her to steer the ship. She delivered with 31 goals and 13 assists last season as a junior, and she was named the Missouri Class 3 player of the year by the state’s coaches association.

Not a bad introduction. She’s followed it up with seven goals and six assists midway through her senior season.

“I have a good ability to see the field really well, and I like to make things happen when I get the ball,” Trujillo said. “Playing (midfielder) gives me options.”

There’s only one objective she’s yet to cross off on the high school to-do list — a state championship.

St. Teresa’s lost 2-1 to Eureka in last year’s Class 3 final. An opposing coach at the Missouri Class 3 state tournament referred to Trujillo as “one of those pesky gnats you can’t swat,” then expressed his surprise that she was the most talented player on the field.

“People definitely think they can overpower me because I’m small, but I’m aggressive, so it helps,” Trujillo said. “I’m used to it, so it doesn’t bother me. I think it works to my advantage because they underestimate me and what I can do.”

Except the word is starting to leak.

Trujillo missed a match against St. James Academy in the MO-KAN Challenge last month. When the Stars took the field without her, a few St. James players approached Trujillo’s teammates and asked why the “small girl” wasn’t on the field.

Trujillo laughed when she heard the story.

“It’s funny to see how people describe you,” Trujillo said. “If that’s how they want to know me, that’s fine.

“At least they know who I am. I must be doing something right.”

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