MISSION — Sharyland High’s Marte de Alejandro nearly walked away from soccer before high school. During his first years playing goalkeeper, de Alejandro was a part of the 13U Dynamo, with the team losing nearly every game 9-0, he said.

The struggles made him doubt his ability, choosing instead to focus on different sports when he reached high school.

While de Alejandro felt he was done with soccer, the sport wasn’t done with him.

“After a while, I didn’t know if soccer was for me so in high school I went to football, basketball,” de Alejandro said. “I tried those out and started in both. I wasn’t going to play soccer anymore, but one of JV goalkeepers was injured so they called me up for the team. I was out of shape because I hadn’t played in a long time, but that opened the gateway for the coaches to know who I am.”

The opportunity led to de Alejandro rededicating himself to the game, using his junior year to hone his skills inside the net. By year’s end, he had claimed the starting goalkeeper job. This season, de Alejandro took it to another level, emerging as a force inside the net for the Rattlers.

For his lockdown defense inside the area, de Alejandro is The Monitor’s 2022 All-Area Boys Soccer Goalkeeper of the Year.

“I remember I had a conversation with my parents,” de Alejandro said. “We talked about going hard even if it was quarantine. I practiced and practiced but when I entered my junior year, we already had a goalkeeper that was going to start. He ended up leaving, I don’t know why, but in life when you have an opportunity you have to take it and I did and hear I am now.

“When I found out I won this award I was really happy. Last year I was all right, but this season I did way better.”

De Alejandro was relied on heavily during the Rattlers’ regular season, with Sharyland High going into penalty kicks six times. With the senior goalkeeper protecting the net, the Rattlers came out on top five of those six times, finishing second in District 31-5A play with a 7-2-5 mark.

In the postseason, de Alejandro was called on again, with the Rattlers going into penalty kicks against Brownsville Lopez during the Class 5A bi-district round. Once again, de Alejandro demonstrated his brilliance in the net, coming up with a diving save during the Lobos’ first penalty attempt to help send the Rattlers to the second round.

“All I think is about is making sure the ball isn’t going into the net,” de Alejandro said. “When guarding against penalties you have to see how the players are reacting. I know I’m not going to save all of them. All it takes is one or two saves to win. I was able to save some this year and get my team wins.”

De Alejandro credits his coaches’ confidence in him for his success during pressure situations this year, trusting in his own ability after doubting it in the past.

“Every time we went into penalties, my coaches would tell the guys to focus on scoring because they trusted I was going to save one or two penalties,” he said. “It added a little pressure, but it made it more fun. … Their trust boosted my confidence.”

His newfound confidence helped de Alejandro achieve a goal he set during his junior year, recently signing to continue his career at NCAA Division III Texas Lutheran.

With four goalkeepers on roster for Texas Lutheran, de Alejandro is ready to embrace the competition and continue to grow.

“My parents are the reason I’m here,” he said. “When I was in third grade, I was a little chubby kid. So, my mom told me I had to get up and do exercise and put me in MYSA. My dad just wanted me to do a sport because he believes it’ll make you a better person. He said the way you are on the field is how you’ll act off the field. That’s my motto basically when I play.

“I think I’m going to do good at Texas Lutheran. They have 50 players, including four goalkeepers, so there is going to be a lot of competition. I feel like it’s going to be fun with more competition.”

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