Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a series that will focus on Kodiak High School seniors who lost out on their spring sports season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The day before high school spring sports were placed on hold, Enrica Villanueva bought a pair of soccer cleats.
Those cleats are still in pristine condition.
Villanueva, a student at Kodiak High School, is one of the thousands of athletes around the nation who don’t get to take the field for their senior seasons as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic. The Alaska Schools Activities Association canceled spring sports in this state March 23.
“It is hard for me because soccer became my favorite sport,” said Villanueva, one of three seniors on Kodiak’s girls soccer team. Jasmine Leiva and Joie Macariola are the other two.
Kodiak had a breakthrough season in 2019, qualifying for the Division II state tournament for the first time in the brief history of the program. Soccer became a sanctioned sport at the high school in 2015.
As captain, Leiva was looking forward to leading the Bears back to the state tournament. Instead, she is left wondering what could have been. She said excitement was brewing at preseason practices.
“It was hard to cope with at first, but as the days went on, I realized it is not the end of the world,” Leiva said.
“My high school career is over, but I still love the sport. Once this is all over with, me and the girls are going to get together to go kick around one last time.”
Leiva and Villanueva — both volleyball players — joined the soccer team as sophomores. Leiva had played throughout her life, learning the game through Kodiak’s youth programs, while Villanueva had only experienced soccer in middle school gym classes.
Both are glad they were part of last year’s historic team that placed seventh at the Division II state tournament. Leiva and Villanueva, who gutted through a sprained ankle at the state tournament, didn’t realize that when they stepped off the pitch following a 2-0 loss to North Pole last May at Eagle River High School that it would be their final time in Kodiak soccer uniforms.
“It was unbelievable,” said Leiva about last year’s run to state. “It made soccer well known. A lot of people talked about it at school, and we had a lot of new girls this season because they heard how good we were last season. It really helped the program grow.”
Leiva said she would never forget the moment when Kodiak beat Grace Christian, 4-1, in the second to last game of the regular season that sealed the Bears’ inaugural state berth.
“Just seeing everybody so happy, with tears rushing down our face … we worked so hard,” she said.
Coming from a family of dental workers, Leiva is hoping to get accepted into the University of Alaska Anchorage dental hygiene program in January. Villanueva has her sights set on attending Central Arizona Community College, where she hopes to continue her athletic career either on a volleyball court or the soccer pitch.
“I’m going to miss seeing all my teammates, just getting together with the coaches and traveling with the team,” Villanueva said.