January 18, 2006 - When Jenna Meredith of the Catalina Foothills High School girl's soccer team entered the Jan. 13 game for the first time against Cienega High School at the 13-minute mark of the first half, the Falcons had yet to score or even put much pressure on the opposing goalie.
Thirty-one seconds later, the Falcons were on the scoreboard, compliments of a Meredith assist. Foothills never looked over its shoulder, adding another goal three minutes later en route to the 2-0 win.
Meredith and teammate Andrea Crowe are among the cast of characters that comprise this year's Foothills squad, a team with tunnel vision toward defending its state title.
"She's just one of those kids who has the potential to change a game and she knows it and I think she's comfortable with it," said Falcon head coach Charlie Kendrick of Meredith. "Those kids only come along every once in a while who have the potential to change a game and are willing to do it, and Jenna is one of those kids. There are lots of good players on this team, but Jenna, on our run to state last year, was the kid who stepped up and scored the big goals when we needed them."
Not to be outdone by her front-line counterpart is Crowe, an experienced and versatile forward with a scoring touch and defensive prowess. Foothills doesn't rely on Meredith and Crowe to help win as many games as it does, but without them, the Falcons likely wouldn't be undefeated (19-0, 3-0 4A Kino Region) and favorites to repeat as 4A champs.
The two seniors - who have been teammates in club soccer since 8th grade - have combined for 12 goals this season and, although it's half of team leader LeAnn Felder's 24 tallies, they always find a way to help out where they can.
With Felder providing the scoring touch, Crowe and Meredith are free to become the consummate teammates in a team sport.
"She scores goals for us but she also gets back and defends," said Kendrick of Crowe. "She can also play in the center and mid-field too, so she allows us to change things in a game if we need to change it up."
The Falcons will need Crowe's versatility and Meredith playmaking abilities if the team is to accomplish its two goals of the season: go undefeated and win the state championship.
So far everything has worked out. Foothills hasn't lost a game since dropping a close one to Salpointe Catholic High School in the finals of the Brandon Bean Invitational in November of 2004. It accomplished this despite the fact that Meredith missed eight games early this season to a shoulder injury that likely thwarted her personal goal to eclipse her mark of 16 goals set last season. Through the team's first 18 games she has tallied five.
If anyone ever foolishly questions their ability to win the big game, all Meredith and Crowe need to do is point to the trophy case. In four years, the two seniors have collected a combined five state titles - three in soccer and two in cross country.
In November, Crowe upended the cross country community by capturing an individual state title in her first, and only, season in the sport. The senior ran the course in 20 minutes 34 seconds, a little more than 11 seconds faster than runner-up Kristen Herrera of Ironwood Ridge High School.
This came from a girl who doesn't particularly like to run and only joined because she didn't want to sit around and waste time between soccer seasons.
"I really did it to basically stay in shape for soccer and get out there and do something," said Crowe. "I feel if I didn't have anything to do I'm lost."
But don't look for Crowe on the soccer pitch or the track next year. The senior says her days of competing likely end with the club soccer season, which will resume after the high school one ends in February. There's still an outside chance the senior could be swayed into joining the track and field team, especially now that Meredith said she will join.
Last year, the Falcons' girl's track and field captured the state title as well. If all goes well this season and both Foothills squads repeat, Crowe could be looking at graduating with five state titles on her resume.
"I just want to give it my all," said Crowe. "This is my last year to just put everything out there. I want to end the season with a win."
Post high school plans for Meredith differ. The senior will attend the University of Arizona where a walk-on role with the UA women's varsity soccer team awaits.
While the Foothills soccer team looks to extend its winning streak, Meredith has a streak of her own she'd like to see remain unbroken. The self-described biggest Foothills fan attends every school athletic event that she can.
"I think athletics in general is what I'll remember because I've been to every single football game this season home and away," said Meredith. "All my friends play sports." After her Falcons beat Cienega, the senior had plans to head directly to the boys basketball game, which the Falcons won, 58-47, over Amphi High School.
Christopher Wuensch is a sports reporter for the EXPLORER. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 797-4384, ext. 112.