There wasn’t much hesitation among teammates when asked why Moffat County High School senior Tracy Mendoza was named the 2010 Western Slope League Player of the Year.
“He scored lots of goals,” sophomore Alan Flores said.
Everyone else nodded their heads in agreement.
Mendoza became the first Bulldog to receive the league’s top honor in team history.
His season included 29 goals, including six hat tricks. He finished as Class 4A’s third-leading scorer.
Western Slope League opponents know who they had to stop when the played Moffat County, even if they didn’t know Mendoza’s name.
“Against Steamboat, a kid pointed at Tracy and said, ‘I got Brad Pitt over here,’” midfielder Johnny Landa said. “Then, Tracy scored and I said, ‘Hey, buddy, Brad Pitt just scored on you.’”
Mendoza entered high school with a reputation as a goal scorer. He lived up to that hype and improved his tallies each season. He scored eight times his freshman year, 11 as a sophomore and 13 as a junior.
“The passing from my teammates improved this year,” Mendoza said. “They got the ball to me when I was open, and the rest was easy.”
Scoring came easy for the Bulldogs this year.
They scored five or more goals in eight of their 11 wins. That amount of wins was the program’s best in history, and so was the team’s second-place finish in the WSL with a 7-3 record.
It should come as no surprise that of the five Bulldogs honored, four were goal scorers.
In addition to Mendoza’s honor, sophomores Alex Perez and Flores earned first-team honors. Junior Jonathan Pando and senior Victor Villa were honorable mention.
The team’s second-leading scorer tallied 18 goals and led the team with 12 assists. Perez scored in all but four games. Perez’s 18 goals were third best in MCHS history and the most ever for a sophomore.
“I had more confidence to take shots this year,” Perez said. Mendoza and Perez were one of the highest scoring forward combinations in the state.
“Tracy and I worked well together,” Perez said. “We knew where each other were a lot.”
Perez said he improved from his freshman year by learning to communicate better on the field.
Mendoza said he expects that Perez will step into his place next year and lead the league in goals.
Left midfielder, Flores, was credited by his teammates with having the Bulldog’s strongest leg.
“He can rip it,” Pando said.
Flores scored eight goals and had 10 assists. He credited his play during the summer in the adult league.
“I’ve learned to play faster and improved my ball control,” he said about a difference from his freshman year to this year.
Pando made the move from wing to center midfielder this year. He was the self-proclaimed “brains” of the team.
“I sit in the middle and feed the ball to the guys at the right time,” he said. “It was a learning experience at first, but I figured it out.”
He didn’t rack up the statistics with four goals and five assists, but that’s not what the team needed from him.
“He knew his role well,” Mendoza said. “Jonathan didn’t get the glory of goals, but he made them happen.”
Villa was the lone defender to receive an honor. He was often the Bulldogs’ last resort to help goalie Dustin Carlson.
“We relied a lot on Victor to cover some ground,” Pando said. “He ran a lot of balls down that could have hurt us.”
Mendoza said that if a team wasn’t going to score, a lot of times it was because of Villa’s effort.
“He put a lot of pressure on the other team and allowed us to go after goals,” Mendoza said.