Freshman forward a force

CHICAGO -- Lane Tech girls soccer coach Mike Wasielewski had never heard of Jasmin Carrera before she showed up for a preseason open gym earlier this year.

She was just another freshman coming out for soccer in his eyes.

Within a few minutes, his view was altered. As soon as Wasielewski caught sight of the soccer ball at Carrera's feet, he realized the Indians were going to have a new star.

"We knew right away," Wasielewski said. "Just the way she moves. She's very technically sound, very creative. Her touch is fantastic."

From scoring Lane's first goal of the season to putting home the overtime game-winner in Friday's regional championship against Evanston, Carrera, the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Week, hasn't disappointed.

"She's been very, very consistent as a freshman," Wasielewski said. "That's rare. She's our leader. She's second in goals [17] and leads us in assists [10]. The thing about her is most of her goals have been scored in the more competitive games we've played. That really shows me the skills she has."

By appearance, Carrera doesn't have the look of an intimidating forward. At 5-foot-1, she isn't about to knock over any defenders or unleash a powerful shot that finds the net from 35 yards out.

Her game is more about finesse and deception. Carerra's soccer career began as a 6 year old playing against 11 year olds, so she learned early it was vital to keep the ball near her feet or she'd have it easily taken away from her. Plus, she's studied the moves of the game's greatest players, especially Ronaldinho and Christiano Ronaldo, and has spent countless hours perfecting those moves.

It's all added up to Carrera possessing a large bag of tricks that she's been able to dip into during her first high school season.

"She's small," Wasielewski said. "She's not going to sprint past some of these larger and faster defenders. She's going to juke. She's going to fake. She's going to outmaneuver them to get to the goal. That's how it is. She's very smooth.

"She has confidence. She knows exactly what she's good at. You can tell she's played thousands of hours of soccer."

Once Carrera realized she was going to play varsity, her confidence soared. Before that, she wasn't so sure where she'd fit in on the soccer field at a school with nearly 7,000 students.

"I didn't know what I was thinking," Carrera said. "It was a big school. I was kind of doubting myself. There's so many kids. I was expecting to go and try and do my best."

Carrera's best has helped Lane Tech become an elite team in the city. The Indians won the Public League championship and have now won 11 consecutive games heading into the sectional semifinals. Friday's win was the Indians' first-ever against Evanston.

Of everything Carrera has done this season, what especially astonished Wasielewski was something that never appeared in the statistics.

"Actually the play of the year for us wasn't even a goal she scored," Wasielewski said. "The play of the year came when we were playing a tough Glenbard East in a tournament. We were up 3-2, and I knew there wasn't much time left. She had the ball and instead of going to the goal, she dribbled it to the corner. She took off a good 15-20 seconds while holding the ball in the corner and two other girls tried to get it away from her. One of the defenders kicked the ball out of bounds and we got the corner. It took up a few minutes all together.

"That was probably the most intelligent thing I've had a player do. That takes the most technical ability to accomplish. It was incredible."

For Carrera, Friday's game-winner was the highlight of her young career.

The play began with a teammate passing her the ball just past midfield. Carrera deflected the pass with her thigh and pushed it past two defenders who were marking her. She sprinted toward the net with the two defenders on her back. About 20 yards out, she saw the goalie moving toward her and shot toward the left side of the net.

"I kicked it, and I didn't want to get my hopes up, but it went in," Carrera said. "I don't even remember what happened after that. I was really happy and everybody ran after me and we fell down. I've had a couple big goals, but this is one of the really big ones."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at preps@espnchicago.com.