Sept. 15, 2004 - While the majority of female athletes at Green Fields Country Day School are inside the school's gym battling each other on the volleyball court, Anna Fiastro, a three sport athlete for the Griffins, is nowhere in sight.
On this early Sept. 7 afternoon, the sophomore can be found outside under the threatening monsoon sky fending off a much bigger and faster opponent; and holding her own in the process.
Fiastro is a sweeper on Green Fields' soccer team, a squad comprised almost entirely of boys. When it comes to soccer in the 1A-3A conferences, Fiastro is by no means a novelty and is slowly moving away from being considered a minority.
Schools of the 1A-3A Confer-ences compete against one another when it comes to soccer due to the small nature of the schools. Most of these programs are private schools or are found in rural areas where enrollment is so low that filling a boys team is sometimes difficult, let alone a girls only squad.
Female soccer players competing on predominantly boys teams can be found throughout Southern Arizona from Benson to Patagonia. So much so that most school squads are no longer dubbed as "the boys team," rather known simply as a co-ed mixture called "the team."
What separates Fiastro and teammate Danielle Theodore from the girls dotting the rosters of soccer squads throughout the state is their ability to dominate games in a starting role.
"We get underestimated a lot," said Fiastro of the roles girls have on a team dominated by boys. "Girls are supposed to play volleyball. We go against that."
A starter in just her second year at Green Fields, Fiastro is adapting well to the demanding position of sweeper, where often she provides the last line of defense between an opponent and the goalie.
"Sweeper is an important position," said Griffin assistant coach Jorge Guarin. "It's a position where you need to have character and she's doing great."
If ever in need for inspiration during a game, Fiastro doesn't need to look any further than up field to Theodore who can be found grinding it out on the offensive side of the ball.
Theodore, a club soccer player in the off-season, has gotten used to competing against the boys. Last year she estimates scoring between eight and 10 goals for the Griffins.
The problem arises when she goes back to playing against an all-girl club team and carries with her the more aggressive style she adopts while playing versus the boys, said Theodore.
With 20 players on the Green Fields roster, Theodore and Fiastro aren't on the team simply due to the lack of talent at the 2A region school. They aren't even the only girls on the team. Senior Amber Lamana joined the squad this season to give the Griffins three female players.
Girls can be found in other lineups throughout the region but unfortunately that is mostly because those schools lack enough athletes to fill out a roster. Desert Christian High School traditionally has the most girls playing on its soccer team in the region. This year the Eagles are the closest team to have two starting girls that can dominate a game. Desert Christian has six girls on its squad-two juniors, one sophomore and three freshman-but only two can start and that's only if necessary.
Of the eight teams competing in Green Fields Region, each team has at least one girl. A total of 11 girls play in the entire region.
Even with the strides that the United States women's soccer team has made over the past decade in luring girls into playing soccer, having enough female athletes to comprise a girls team is something that is slow to evolve at the smaller schools in Arizona.
"I think most freshman don't come out for the team because they are intimidated about playing on a guy's team," said Fiastro.
The Griffins' trio of girls agrees that it takes quite an adjustment to playing on a team of mostly guys.
"It's tough getting used to some of the things guys say on the field," said Theodore, who admits the crude comments are often not aimed at the girls. The guys may be a bit rough around the edges on the field toward each other but when it comes to defending the girls on their team nothing or no one stands in their way.
When it comes to fitting in with the team, Fiastro, Theodore and Lamana might as well be "one of the guys." Their male teammates at Green Fields embrace the girls simply as teammates.
"You get used to playing with them," said Green Field senior forward Gabe Hostetler. "They are definitely a great addition to our team."
"The guys are real protective of us," said Lamana, a self-described tennis junkie who just began playing soccer this year. Incidents of boys targeting girls on the field are rare, considering most teams now have at least one or two female players, but not obsolete.
"I can see that some of them (opponents) play a little rougher around her," said Liz Wack, mother of Fiastro.
Theodore admits to being knocked down by a guy on several occasions but concedes that it only strengthens her will to succeed against them.
One of her favorite moments came last year after she helped lead the Griffins past a raucous Patagonia team and crowd on the school's senior night.
"It feels a lot better to beat a guy than a girl," she said.