The rain is really picking up and Lauren Watts is asked by a photographer whos in a hurry to get to his car to try one without smiling.
The resulting expression is one that was familiar to Watts foes on the soccer field this year. The Northwestern seniors mouth drops into a stern frown and her brows furrow. Its kind of unnerving.
Thats what everybody says, she points out. When I dont smile I look scary.
If opponents saw anything but that stern glare its probably because Watts scored, the Trojans won, or most likely both. The senior forward, who will play for Winthrop this fall, netted 22 goals this spring and set up 10 more, earning all-state honors and helping Cesar Robles program to one of its best seasons ever: a 16-6 record and a trip to the second round of the state tournament.
Earning the Heralds 2013 All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year award was worth smiling about.
When my coach texted me and told me that, I was definitely surprised, Watts said last week, because we have a lot of competition around this area. Its a good way to end my career in high school.
Watts didnt start playing soccer until seventh grade, late compared to many girls she plays with and against. She admitted her skills still are sharpening, but Watts aggression and commitment separate her from the pack.
A leader on and off the field, leading by example, said Robles. Shes basically one of those players that says Get on my back; Ive got this.
Its what she must have said when she scored a brilliant goal to put Northwestern ahead 1-0 in the second-round playoff loss to T.L. Hanna. And its what she did in scoring decisive goals against Clover, Nation Ford and several other opponents.
Whether through her own efforts or a stern word to a teammate, Watts left no question as to what was expected of herself and her team.
It raised the level of our play to levels that weve never been before, honestly, said Robles, whose team had three others who will play college soccer this fall. It brought that no-quit mentality, that fight to the final whistle-type of mentality, and just a belief that they were going to be successful.
Watts doesnt always have to rely on grit. Of course there is her unique flip throw-in that launches the ball into opponents penalty areas. And shes good on the ball but also very fast, a quality that will bode well for her at the college level.
That doesnt hurt, said Robles. You couple that with strength and good technical skill and awareness of the game, and thats the reason why she was so successful.
The photo shoot finished, Watts and the photographer scurried to waiting vehicles. She flashed a quick smile and said, Thanks! before turning a scowl toward the uncooperative heavens.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T