CALEDONIA — Zia Saraiva doesn’t think she is a loud mouth.
It’s just that when she gets on the soccer field she usually doesn’t stop talking.
In some sports, Saraiva’s gift for gab could take away from her play and distract her team.
But the Caledonia High School girls soccer team has gotten used to Saraiva’s penchant for constant communication as a defender. In fact, her talkativeness helped anchor the Lady Confederates’ defense the past three seasons.
Now Saraiva hopes her communication skills will translate to the next level.
Less than two weeks after making an impression at a tryout, Saraiva signed a scholarship Wednesday to play soccer at Hinds Community College in Raymond.
Saraiva went to the tryout Feb. 16 to have fun. She said she didn’t realize she made an impression on Hinds C.C. coach Marcille McLendon until her father, Armando, complimented her on her performance. Shortly thereafter, McLendon, who used to coach women’s soccer at East Mississippi C.C., contacted her and asked if she was interested in playing soccer in college.
Saraiva was didn’t know what to say.
“It was (on the spur of the moment),” Saraiva said. “My dad also mentioned ICC if this didn’t work out, but because this did I am going to stick with this.
“I was hoping (I would get an opportunity), but I also was surprised because I thought maybe she didn’t have a scholarship and she was looking at prospects for next year. When I got the call the next day after I had been there, I was literally jumping in my room screaming. I was really happy.”
Saraiva feels her ability to talk and to lead a defense is her biggest attribute. She knows it is her responsibility to provide constant chatter because as center back she can see the entire field. Her goal is to help her teammates identify pressure or to locate open spots on the field to deliver passes. She said she doesn’t talk so much to be overbearing and hopes that her teammates appreciate her communication skills.
“All of the girls on my team can tell you that throughout the whole game all you hear is me or the goalie,” Saraiva said. “Sometimes I think I am getting on peoples’ nerves, but I just want to make sure we stay together and we’re able to win the game, if possible, and do our best.
“A lot of times I feel like I am talking too much, but I know I am doing it for the team. It’s a good thing someone is out there who is keeping everyone in line or, at least, letting them know what is happening.”
Saraiva could get a chance to showcase her ability to lead a defense in the fall. McLendon said her program lost all of its defenders from the 2011 squad, and that Saraiva will be one of six incoming defenders who will compete for playing time. When she learned Saraiva hadn’t signed with a school to play soccer, she was excited. She was even happier after she watched — and heard — Saraiva play.
McLendon had talked with Caledonia High girls soccer coach Jason Forrester about his players, so she knew about her but wasn’t sold until she participated in the tryout.
“I was trying to pick up two or three more girls, and when she came down to tryouts she shined,” McLendon said. “She was by far one of the best players at the tryout. I honestly couldn’t believe no one had picked her up. I am really fortunate for her to have come to the tryout and be as interested in Hinds as I was in her.”
Saraiva considered playing soccer out of state in part because she said her family thought it was going to leave the area. But she said things changed and she started to examine possibilities in the state. Forrester told Saraiva about tryouts at Hinds C.C., and one thing led to another.
Forrester anticipates Saraiva will compete for playing time immediately. He said she was a positive presence all three years she was a part of the program not only only because she is technically and tactically sound, but she also because she keeps defenses organized and communicates with everyone. He feels Saraiva’s communication skills will only get better at the next level.
“You get a lot of people out there who understand what is going on but don’t know how to verbalize it,” said Forrester, who also taught Saraiva in Mississippi Studies and Geography. “She is very good at telling people where to be, how to line up. She can recognize changes the other team would make and we were able to go. She was a coach on the field. She did a real good job. She has been so positive since she has been here.
“I honestly believe she can probably be a starter for her this year. She has that kind of work ethic, she wants to get better, and she wants to play as long as she can play.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.