When the 2019-20 girls soccer season begins this fall, there will be a familiar face on the Canyon sideline.
Milan Cabrera, a former varsity player at Canyon, returns to the field this season, but this time as the team’s head coach.
“I started playing when I was 5 years old, went through club soccer, played at Canyon High School, that’s really where the love of the sport came from,” Cabrera said. “The competitiveness of it especially in the Canyon environment. The Cowboy pride, I loved it, I love the competition. I like to be the best, that’s just kind of how my mind works.”
During her junior year at Canyon, Cabrera was recruited to Oregon State where she played three years before injuring her knee, forcing her to redshirt her senior year.
Cabrera continued her athletic and academic career at The University of the Pacific, where she played alongside her sister Malaya and earned a master’s degree.
It was up north where she got her first taste of coaching, leading the varsity team at McNair High School in Stockton for one year.
“It kind of came naturally after I graduated. I started my master’s program at the University of the Pacific, I coached the varsity team at McNair High School and it just came natural,” she said. “Being a centre back you are kind of the coach on the field. I never really thought about it to be honest. I just love soccer, I always want to be around it.
“I laugh now because I’m coaching and I get to be on the opposite side. I put some of my coaches through the loop, to say the least.”
As far as Cabrera’s coaching style is concerned, she is going to lead the team the same way she played, with intensity, passion and a desire to compete with the best.
Cabrera is in a unique position having played the sport at a highly-competitive level. As a defender, she knows the importance of building from the back up. She practices with her players, pushes them to be the best version of themselves and preaches “practice how you play.”
“I’m hard on everyone because I have such high expectations for these girls because I want to push them to their ability,” she said. “I connect with these girls, but I tell them how it is, this is what we need to do to get better. You go in soft you’re going to get hurt, you have to practice good habits. I think that’s what’s going to push us to the next level.”
Canyon returns a core group of players from last season’s team, including All-Foothill League First Team player Aubrey McKessy and honorable mention Jacqueline Morrison.
The Cowboys only graduated five seniors, so the team is stacked with experienced players who have played on the varsity level.
“We have such a good team coming back because we were so young last year, it’s exciting to see,” Cabrera said.
The Cowboys have not won a Foothill League title since the 2008-09 season, which coincidentally was Cabrera’s senior year.
While Cabrera knows the Foothill League is loaded with talented teams, she has full faith in her squad and believes if they give their full effort and leave it all out on the field each and every game, they will be triumphant.
“I tell them all the time if we lose a game but we worked our butts off, I’m okay with it, that’s all that matters to me, that they are willing to compete,” she said. “That’s how I think we’ll have a successful season. Just that hard work and that drive to want to win. If they have that I think we’ve already won.”