Hart boys soccer senior goalkeeper Lucas Enriquez is an example of what a true goalkeeper is and he exudes it through his style, attitude, determination and style of play.
After facing a deficit in both of the past two playoffs games, both wins, Enriquez kept his head up, shook off the mistakes, hunkered down and played an integral part in Hart’s journey to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinals on Saturday.
“As a goalie and as, I guess the mental rock of the team, I can’t show that I’m down,” Enriquez said. “I always try to keep my head up even when I’m mad, even when I’ve made a mistake, I need to keep my head up. If they see me being weak, then they will be weak so I need to stay strong.”
Over the years, Enriquez has put in the time, dedication and learned the skills that has enabled him to become one of the most consistent and reliable goalies. But Enriquez’s skills could have been for nothing if someone close to him hadn’t given him the ‘go-ahead‘ in his adolescence.
Enriquez’s father grew up playing soccer in Peru and played every position. Naturally, Enriquez wanted to be just like dad and began playing soccer around the age of four. He was the only left-footed player on the team so they positioned him at left back or left mid.
But Enriquez did not take well to the game because of all the running involved, so he quit.
“I didn’t like running, so I quit around the age of eight,” Enriquez said.
One day, as Enriquez was watching a ‘La Liga’ contest, which is the Spanish League’s top Soccer Division, that Real Madrid was playing in and noticed their goalkeeper, Iker Casillas. Immediately, he saw some similarities between him and the Spanish goalkeeper.
“Personally I’m not a tall person, so I felt like I could play goalie,” Enriquez said. “I started diving around and it looked really fun.”
Then came the defining moment that enabled Enriquez to become a goalkeeper.
“One day, I was like nine and a half, right before school I asked my mom, ‘Can I play goalie?’ She said, ‘Yeah, OK.’ So I joined my first club team and that’s how I began.”
Enriquez found success playing at the club level and in 2002 playing for LA Galaxy, Enriquez and the team made it to the State Cup Finals, but ended up losing on penalty kicks.
“That was the only penalty shootout I lost,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez transferred into Hart High School during his sophomore year in October and joined the JV team because of the 30-day transfer period and because of his fitness level.
“I gained around 40 to 50 pounds since freshman year to when I transferred into Hart,” Enriquez admitted. “This battle of losing weight, that was my biggest battle.”
True to his character, Enriquez shed the weight over the years and has shown his improvement through his play and fierce determination to be the best goalkeeper he knows he can be.
Last season, Enriquez made an appearance in the first three of four games, but was held out the rest of the season with an apparent injury to his midsection.
Working with Hart assistant coach Craig Jaffe for the past three years, Enriquez has tapped into his full potential this season in his first full campaign as the Indians’ starting goalkeeper.
“…it’s less about me teaching him how to play the position and it’s more about refining his game and getting really, really quality with the way this team plays and getting in sync with the rest of the team,” Jaffe said. “His mentality and confidence, they are never wavering. He is cool, calm and collected. He is a very intelligent kid, very smart and capable goalkeeper. He has put in a lot of time and work to really master what it takes to be a goalkeeper at this level.”
Over the course of the season, Enriquez has been a rock in between the post for Hart finishing the regular season with eight shut-out wins and only allowed 20 goals all season long including the playoffs.
But Enriquez saved his best for last. In the past two playoff games, against Montebello and Norwalk, Enriquez uncharacteristically allowed a couple of goals that led to a Hart deficit for the first time in the postseason.
In both matches, Enriquez regrouped, while the Hart offense did its part to score goals and forced overtime which, in turn, led to penalty kicks.
In PK’s, Enriquez shined the brightest. Enriquez has gone 5-of-9 in PKs over the course of the two shootouts, with one going just wide, giving the Indians another chance to continue on their path to a CIF title.
“There has been some ups and downs, but his play has really been a constant for us. You have the occasional lapse in judgment and mistake in a game, but for the most part, he has been quality and provides a sense of stability in the back. He’s a bit of a quiet leader, but he’s a guy who we know will give us his best effort and be consistent.”
Enriquez and the Indians are on the road in the Division 3 semifinals against North Torrance at North Torrance High School at 4 p.m. on Saturday.