It was during the dog days of summer, shortly after the Greens Farms Academy girls soccer season had started when Coach Andrew Henry pulled aside the new kid and offered sage advice.
“I challenged her to be the best and told her to beat some records,” Henry said of his preseason conversation with Sofia Atehortua. “The team stuff comes first, but you have to believe in your individual goals.”
Atehortua took her coach’s words to heart. On Monday, as the team celebrated its five seniors as part of Senior Day, the freshman stole the show, scoring four goals to give her 33 on the season. That established a new GFA Girls Varsity Soccer record for most goals in one season, topping the 31 scored by Alli Rago ’06 in 2001.
“It means a lot,” Atehortua said. “It was my goal from the beginning of the season. [Coach Henry] proposed it to be my goal and that was my mindset.”
While Atehortua went pointless in her GFA debut, she scored three goals in her second game and has never looked back — even as defenses start focusing on the quick-footed diminutive player wearing uniform number 19.
“That’s part of it. She’s not just good, she’s smart.” Henry said. “She finds pockets of space that defenses might not notice, and she exploits that.” And because she’s a team player first, Atehortua is just as willing to give up the ball to an open teammate.
“The defense has gotten tougher," she said. "As I’ve been defended, it creates a lot of space for other players. After that, I just pop in, lose the mark and hopefully finish.”
Atehortua also gets an assist — both figurative and literally — from junior teammate Lauren Lior, whose 20 goals and eight assists give the Dragons a one-two punch that has to keep defenses honest. “Having Lauren on the field, she’ll get two or three defenders on her sometimes and that frees up Sofia,” Henry said. “They work hand in hand like a tandem.”
Atehortua quickly credits Lior and her other teammates for her individual success as well as that of the team, which is now 14-2-2 on the season. “Of course, this isn’t possible without great captains and great teammates,” Atehortua said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to share this season without anybody else.”
While GFA has one more regular-season game left before the postseason — the Dragons are looking for deep postseason runs in both the FAA and New England Prep School Athletic Conference tournament — when it comes to individual goals, Atehortua’s eyes are on a three-digit number: 100.
That career goal total would break Rago’s school mark of 99, which has stood since 2005.
“I’m just always going to work hard, and I want the team to be successful,” she said. “I’ll keep practicing and doing my thing and 99 is the number to beat. I think it’s possible. It’s a goal, but the team matters more, and having that success is what counts.”