A few weeks before the school year began in September, La Quinta girls soccer coach Bob Quattlebaum was given some potentially devastating news: Goalie Paige Baker was transferring to Palm Desert. Without a summer to prep, the coach would need to find a replacement at perhaps the most vital position on the field for a team that has serious CIF title aspirations.
Fortunately, Quattlebaum didn’t have to look very far. Junior forward Arianna Rodriguez had played in the net before, when she was much younger, and there was plenty of talent remaining on the roster from last year’s CIF semifinal team to take some of the pressure off her in her new position.
Through 17 games this season, La Quinta has not missed a beat and Rodriguez has arguably been the most important player on the field for the Blackhawks. She’s compiled 11 shutouts, compiled 43 saves and has only been scored on eight times. As a result, La Quinta is 15-1-1 and is currently the top-ranked team in the CIF-SS Division V poll.
The Desert Sun recently caught up with Rodriguez to discuss the process of changing positions, how the team has been so successful this year and what the future may hold for the Blackhawks.
QUESTION: How well do you feel you have you adjusted back to the goalkeeper position this season?
ANSWER: I’m kind of used to it because I played goalie when I was younger, but it is definitely a change. I’m still getting adjusted to reaction because I was really into scoring goals. It was quick to come back at it. I didn’t really have to learn much.
Growing up, how much experience did you have playing goalie?
I played forward growing up, but around (age) 10 or 11 I started playing the goalkeeper position. For my clubs teams, I’ve had to play the goalkeeper position once or twice because of our goalie getting injured. So it was definitely new, but I think being a goalie will always be inside of me. I wouldn’t say I’m a natural, but it comes to me very easily.
What are some things you like about being in the net as opposed to being a field player?
I will always love fielding way more than goalie because I just love to run out there on the field and score — I just love it. But I like when we are in a close game and you can make those great saves to save the game and everyone is thanking you for it. I don’t like how much pressure is involved in it, but I love the excitement that you get, and the adrenaline you get when someone is coming toward you and the crowd is cheering. That’s what I love about it.
You have an important role on a team that has CIF title aspirations. How do feel about that?
It scares me sometimes, just all the pressure I have. When we talk about CIF it’s sometimes scary because if it’s a 1-0 game, you have to be a star. So it’s scary a times, but it also gets me really pumped.
When you look at all the shutouts you’ve had this year, does that give you added confidence now heading into the second half of the league schedule?
Yes, that gives me a lot of confidence, and my defense gives me even more confidence. Our defense is just so strong, and the trust we have is great. I think our defense is really strong this year, and that has helped with the shutouts.
This team lost some senior leadership last year, but a number of top performers returned. How do you like this year’s team versus last year’s?
I think, compared to last year, we have a lot more speed this year. I mean, we’re super fast. We also didn’t have two players that are on our team now, Sydney (Hannibal) and Stephanie (Esquivel), our midfield, so that gives us a great advantage. And our defense, I think, has stepped up a lot. We just work really well together and I think, again, our speed. It’s just ridiculous. Our team is super fast.