EDINBURG — Taylor Campbell had a breakaway up the left sideline. She was a scorer and could’ve easily taken the shot, even though she was on her weak side of the field and it would be a tough angle.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw her teammate streaking up the middle with a slight lead on her defender.
Without missing a beat — and using her weaker left foot — she crossed the ball, which was just out of the defender’s reach and in orchestral step with her teammate who dribbled and drilled the ball past the goalie for a score.
This is Taylor Campbell 2.0, also The Monitor’s All-Area Girls Soccer Co-Player of the Year.
Campbell, who just finished her sophomore campaign for Edinburg Vela, came onto the soccer scene with a bang as a freshman, scoring 36 goals to become District 31-6A’s Offensive Player of the Year. This year, however, didn’t start off quite the same way.
“The team started off on fire, but I started off a little bit rocky,” she said. “My style of play changed and instead of attacking, attacking, attacking, I was distributing the ball more. But as I did that and kept distributing the ball, the shots just opened up and the goals just happened.”
This season she scored “just” 34 goals, but added 26 assists, making her a danger from all over the field and making her teammates better, knowing that if they got open they probably had a ball coming their way. This past season, Campbell was named the district’s most valuable player.
While Campbell was, and still is, an explosive goal scorer, she is now an offensive game-changer from virtually anywhere on the playing field. Much of that has to do with the fact that she’s been playing the sport for 12 years — since she was 3. But it also has to do with her improving her technical skills and being more comfortable dribbling the ball through traffic or as a defender fast approaches.
“I think my teammates had more and more confidence in me as the season continued,” she said. “For the most part, I give them balls they can control and do stuff with. They knew something would happen when I got the ball and they would go out wide and get good spacing. I was a player they looked to for passes.
“As a freshman, all I did was attack and try to score,” Campbell said. “I had the privilege this year of working with a trainer and we worked on the technical skills and my weaker side so I had more confidence taking on players and distributing the ball.”
Campbell would hear the naysayers when the year started.
“I didn’t start off well and I could hear others saying things like, ‘She hasn’t gotten better,’ or, ‘She’s not as strong as last year,’ and that motivated me,” she said. “I just kept my head up and kept working.”
She’s not done yet. Campbell said her goal is to play college soccer and she knows she still has work to do.
“Right now I’m working more on my defensive side of the ball,” she said. “I have to be more of a complete player.”
Campbell comes from an athletic family. Her father played football and ran track. Her mother played volleyball and ran track. Her brother, Chase, played soccer and was the quarterback on the JV team last season before being moved up for the playoffs.
She said she and her brother would go kick the soccer ball around a lot when he played. She said even though he hasn’t played competitively, he still can take her one-on-one.
Now that the offseason is in full swing, Campbell is training at a vigorous pace. The SaberCats lost to Brownsville Hanna in the first round of the playoffs, and one can hear the bitterness in her voice when she talks about that game. Her plan is not for a repeat this year.
“Anything can happen in this sport and you can’t get cocky,” she said, remembering losing to Edinburg High at one point during the year.“Maybe that’s what happened to us. It was a wakeup call and we all started working harder and had to get everything in order.”