Amarys Machado, a two-year captain of Sonora High School varsity soccer and midfield leader of the Wildcats team that finished the 2019-2020 season as the undefeated Mother Lode League champions, has committed to compete and study at Westmont College in Santa Barbara County after graduating from Sonora 

Machado, elected by her peers to be president of Sonora’s Class of 2021, graduated Thursday night with a 4.14 grade point average. She said her favorite subject was math. She plans to major in health science at Westmont and hopes to become a physician’s assistant in pediatrics so she can work with children.

Machado was born and raised in Sonora. She is descended from Mexican, Portuguese and Brazilian ancestors, and she’s been playing soccer “as long as I can remember, maybe like 3 or 4 years old. I was little.”

“It was the first sport I could sign up for,” she said. “We were playing organized soccer at Standard Park. Uniforms, shin guards, cleats. I remember my parents screaming for me. I was so tiny compared to everyone. I was pretty fast. Sometimes my teammates would pick daisies and I’d say, ‘Hey, we’re playing soccer.’ ”

Machado stayed with Tuolumne County Youth Soccer until 2nd grade, then joined Sierra United Soccer Club and played for David Marquez, who later became varsity girls soccer head coach at Summerville High School.

“When I was younger I looked up to Mia Hamm,” she said of the former four-time NCAA national champion with the North Carolina Tar Heels, two-time winner of the Olympics soccer tournament, and two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion. “She played the same position as me, and her number was 9, and I always wanted to be number 9. I remember watching her play and thinking soccer is the real deal. I just looked up to her.”

Machado would watch Hamm’s technical footwork and the moves she used to get around opponents, including the scissor step and step-over, and then she’d go out and practice them. Other U.S. women’s national team players she looks up to include Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, and Rose Lavelle.

Both her parents played sports. Her father was into soccer. Her brother Tres was into football and played varsity at Summerville, where he graduated with the Class of 2019.

“He was like twice my size,” she said. “He would throw me around when we’d play pickup and kick it around. I learned to be tough and not let other people throw me around.”

Machado played club soccer with Sierra United until 7th grade, then Modesto Ajax, and then San Juan South Soccer Club in Stockton.

“I learned different things from each coach,” she said. “At Sonora, Kurt Wolken taught me how to be a leader on and off the field. I earned a lot from him, not just soccer. Among my teammates I was team captain. I had to learn a lot about how to be a role model. Integrity and humility, not cutting corners and staying honest, and to push myself.”

Machado is a playmaker in the midfield, a boss on the ball who fights for and maintains possession, a distributor of the ball who creates and sets up her teammates, and a goal scorer who had eight goals in three matches at one point in the recent pandemic-compressed spring season. From sophomore year to senior year, she played 37 matches, scored 44 goals and assisted on 20 more.

She said she was playing for San Juan South in a showcase tournament in Davis late summer or early fall last year when someone from Westmont saw her play. 

“They emailed me and invited me to come visit,” Machado said. “Everything just clicked while I was there. It seemed like a good fit.”

Machado said she wants to thank her parents and her family as a whole. Her dad used to drive her twice a week to Stockton. They invested a lot of time and money in her development as a soccer player. They never missed a game, “and that’s something I always appreciated.”

She added, “the abilities I have and my love for the game, I couldn't do this without God. I wouldn't be where I am today without Him.”

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.net or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.