AJHS’s Cafaro Named Region Player of the Year

Lady Prospectors Cap Successful Season, Placing 5 on All-Black Canyon Soccer Squad

By Daniel Dullum

Had Katy Cafaro, the 4A Black Canyon Region player of the year, stayed with dancing, her noteworthy soccer career might not have happened.

“I started playing soccer when I was 7. But before that, I took dance lessons for a couple of years,” the Apache Junction sophomore recalled. “I knew that wasn’t for me! I needed something that was a little more aggressive when I was 7, and I’ve been playing ever since.”

By age 9, Cafaro knew that soccer was her true calling.

“I tried out for my first club team and they told me I was ‘amazing’ for only playing two years,” she said. “And I was like, ‘What?’ Ever since then, it’s been like, ‘OK. This is fun!’ But I had other girls on the team that were equally as good if not better. That always pushed me not to keep all of that in my head.

Katy Cafaro

“And the first club team I played on, most of the girls didn’t like me! That was another reason to work harder.”

What’s fun for Cafaro is a nightmare for her opponents. In 2017-18, she led AJ with 21 goals along with 12 assists. Cafaro was also a repeat all-region choice, and was the region’s offensive player of the year as a freshman.

As for an encore, Cafaro said, laughing, “I don’t know! I guess whatever comes, comes.  It’s just about playing the game.

“I personally don’t enjoy getting all the awards because I feel it puts pressure on a player to be better, and you have expectations. But at the same time, this my reward for working hard. There’s no off day – now I have to work harder.”

Norm Hoefer, the Lady Prospectors coach, said of Cafaro: “Katy has been an asset to our program over the past 2 seasons. With her skills up top, the team trusts that we can go score goals when we need to. She is a never ending workhorse that can change the game whenever she gets the ball.

“Katy works hard after practice and on weekends trying to perfect her shooting technique. She is a versatile player that can play almost any position on the field and play it well. It is nice to know that we will have her for two more years. She is a solid player that lets her play and her stats speak for her.”

Cafaro believes the region honors are reflective on the team’s success. The Lady Prospectors finished 17-5-1 overall, 3-2 in region play and 1-1 in the 4A playoffs.

“Our team worked together really well this year,” Cafaro said. “It’s the first time we’ve been to a playoff game that we did well in. Our team this year was one of the best teams I’ve played on for this school, ever. All the girls worked really well together, we all really connected, there was no fighting, no arguing this year, and I think that’s what really set us apart and made us better.”

While Cafaro has the option to play for her travel team fulltime, the high-scoring forward intends to continue at AJHS for the next two seasons – good news for the Lady Prospectors and bad news for their 4A opponents.

Personal goals do not motivate Cafaro. Team goals do.

“From my freshman year, I would usually pass the ball off and give up the chance to score. What was different this year was I got more confident with the ball and knew that if I took a shot, my girls were always following up and had my back no matter what happened.”

Cafaro isn’t hearing from colleges yet, but whatever program gets in touch with her needs to have a strong veterinary and/or zoology program. Toward that end, Cafaro was interning at Animal Hospital in Mesa and recently became an employee.

“It’s owned by one of the parents of the soccer club I play for,” Cafaro said. “They took me on as soon as I turned 16 and I’ve been working there since.

“Since I was little, everybody said I had a gift with animals and how they’re comfortable around me. I’ve always really liked animals. Becoming a vet or a zoologist gives me an opportunity to make animals healthy again or help the owners easily deal with the pain without having them go through a rough time.”

With her busy schedule, Cafaro said working with animals helps her decompress.

“It helps me get away, to just relax and do whatever I want while helping other people and not worrying about anything.

“It recharges the batteries a little bit.”

Still recovering from soccer injuries to her foot and shoulder, Cafaro had to let go of track after qualifying for the state 4A meet last year as a sprinter.

With a grueling, nearly year-round schedule, is there such a thing as too much soccer? Cafaro doesn’t think so.

“Soccer takes a lot of dedication, and if you want to become better, it takes that dedication to put a player above and beyond a little more. With a little extra help, you achieve those goals, and you become better.

“It’s all about becoming better in this sport. It’s about the team and having fun.”

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