Love’ Tovar had been thought of as one of the premier soccer players in El Paso, scoring 25 goals in her sophomore season at Del Valle. She also gained some local attention for putting together a ‘sweater bet’ with a principal of district rival Parkland last season.
But as she starts her junior year, she’ll have the spotlight once again on the field in a different role as Del Valle’s starting kicker in 2017.
“I heard that the head coach (Jesse Perales) needed a kicker,” Tovar said, “I asked my dad if he could contact him to see if I could try out.”
Jesse Perales knew about Love’s talent as a soccer player. In fact, it was something that the two of them had talked about in the past. Fast forward a few months after that talk and Tovar got her opportunity to earn her way on to the team. Turns out, she made quite an impression there too.
“I talked with her after one of her games and told her that she should kick for us,” Perales said of Tovar, “We laughed about it but over the summer, she decided to try it. I gave her a chance to try out just like anybody else and she was fantastic. All of us on the coaching staff were impressed.”
Tovar made the team and so far has shown off quite a leg and says she’s confident about making kicks from 35 yards and in. She’s excited for her big opportunity but admits that doing something like this was unexpected.
— Tony Venegas (@OA_TVenegas) August 22, 2017
“This was just something out of the blue,” Tovar conceded, “I didn’t even see myself doing this because I was just looking forward to watching the games in the stands. Now, I’m actually going to be a part of it. It’s great to actually be playing.”
One thing that should help Tovar is the support system she has. In her short time on varsity, the team has fully embraced her as one of their own.
“I’m really glad she’s out here,” said junior wide receiver Karch Gardiner, “She’s going to really help us out with field goals just because I know we had some problems last year.”
“They really want to rally around her and protect her,” Perales said of his team’s response, “They think it’s cool that a girl is going to see what they go through every day in football. We don’t look at it as a male-female thing. She’s a player on the team and we’re going to treat her as such.”
She’s even got support from one person who’s seen her grow all the way up from elementary school.
“Love’ has been my student for the last 11 years and she’s developed into a tremendous athlete,” said Del Valle principal Antonio Acuña, “I could see it ever since middle school because of her work ethic. She’s the type of person to challenge herself and she wants to prove to people that she can do it.”
Tovar knows that there is still a learning curve. One thing she’ll have to deal with is taking full contact on the football field. Perales does have her go through drills so she can get used to what she may face and give her a chance to learn how to protect and defend herself.
“I’m nervous about that but I’m part of the team. I just know that I have to be ready,” she said, “It might have take some time to get used to it, but I know that the team has my back.”
“For me, there are some nerves not because she’s a girl, but because she’s never played football,” Perales said, “There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s a violent sport and I’d hate for anybody to get hurt, especially a young lady who came to help us out. We’re going to do everything that we can to prepare her for what’s coming in those situations and I think she’ll do a great job handling it.”
At the end of the day, Tovar’s goal is plain and simple: Do whatever she can to help her team win.
“I’ve had a lot of talks with my dad,” Tovar said, “He’s just told me to stay calm and just focus on what I have to do and not let everything get into my head.”
She believes in herself as do her coaches and teammates.
“She’s got a lot of moxie and poise,” Perales said, “Kicking is such a mental aspect of the game and I think she’s very mentally tough.”
“If we need her to make a clutch kick, I’m 100 percent confident that she’ll make it,” Gardiner said, “We’re going to support her all the way through.”
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