Mesa's Perales, Blackwood Named Athletes of Month

Soccer players Taylor Perales and Annie Blackwood of Murrieta Mesa High School have been named February Murrieta 24/7 Athletes of the Month...

Soccer players Taylor Perales and Annie Blackwood of Murrieta Mesa High School have been named February Murrieta 24/7 Athletes of the Month, sponsored by Photos DLite photo studio.

Although only a sophomore, Perales served as captain of the boys soccer team and played a pivotal role in the improvement of the team. Although the team finished below .500 this season, the Rams won four league games and eight games overall for the best record in the program's history.

"I think the reason I became a key player quickly this year is because I played with many of the guys on the team last year as a freshman on the boys varsity team," Perales said. "I don’t see myself as a take-charge kind of guy really, but if I see that there is an area that needs direction or leadership, I’m not afraid to speak up and offer a suggestion.

"Being chosen as one of the captains this year was an honor I never expected. As a sophomore, I felt honored to be chosen and looked at it as a rewarding experience as I had the opportunity to be looked up to as a leader by my peers."

Perales plays center midfielder, a position that requires skill both in playmaking and defense.

"My strengths in this position are that I have good vision for the field and the ability to pick out deadly passes," he said. "I can draw in defenders and not only create opportunities for myself, but for others to move the ball in an attacking manner. In this position, I’m not afraid to be aggressive and put my body out there in order to maintain or win the ball. Having the intelligence to be able to dictate the flow of the game is important to control the outcome of the game.

"Even though we didn’t make it to the CIF playoffs, as a team we came together this year to have the best season on record for our program. I am very proud and thankful that I have had the opportunity to play under Coach Bokma and Coach Hayden. Watching the seniors leave this year will be tough since we’ve played together the last two seasons, but I am confident that after the season we had this year, the next two can only get better."

Blackwood, primarily a center back for the girls soccer team, was moved to striker late in the league season due to injuries to other players. True to her nature as a team player, she did what was necessary to help her team remain competitive down the stretch.

"I would say it went well and I had a lot of fun playing that position since I never get to," Blackwood said about the switch. "For me personally, I think the key to success is putting others before you and playing for your team, and of course always training hard and focusing on your job in the game.

"I think my favorite highlight is when I scored against Temecula Valley to tie it up (in a 1-1 tie Feb. 2). My team played amazing that game and it felt great to score against them."

Blackwood also drew high praise from her coach, Mark Vogel.

"She was asked to play an attacking position for our final two games," Vogel said last month. "She responded very well by causing the other team's defense all types of problems. From becoming a target player with size and strength, to taking defenders on 1 on 1, she changed our attack and proved to be a very dangerous striker. Through her leadership and willingness to do whatever it takes, Annie put us in the position to compete and have some success."

Although Blackwood was hoping for a better overall outcome this season, she said she has great memories of her four years in the Murrieta Mesa soccer program.

"Being a captain on the team, I am very passionate about bringing my team together and setting a good example for everyone," she said. "This season was not the way I pictured my senior season going, honestly. However, with the circumstances and challenges my team faced, with a new coach and many key players out due to injuries, I am proud of my team for giving their best effort.

"I am honored to have played on varsity all four years of my high school career and I am so grateful for the friendships I created on my team. I am sad to leave high school soccer behind, but I am very excited to continue my soccer career at Point Loma Nazarene University for the next four years. I'd like to add a huge thank you to my mom and dad for always supporting me!"

Perales and Blackwood will receive a free portrait from Photos DLite. A portrait will also be given to the school for display.


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