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File / The Herald Stanhope midfielder Victoria Cortes (11) led the Mustangs with 12 goals during her junior season.

Despite a disappointing junior season which included just two victories and already looking on to the 2020 season, Stanhope Elmore’s Victoria Cortes received a surprising invitation. She accepted that invitation and will now represent Stanhope at the 2019 North-South All-Star girls soccer game in Montgomery on July 17.

“I didn’t believe it at first really,” Cortes said. “We didn’t have a great season but I’m really excited about it. All of the girls were really supportive and the coaches told me they were really proud of me.”

Cortes, who earned a spot on the all-county team, played in the midfield for the Mustangs and was one of the few bright spots for the team in 2019. She finished with a team-high 12 goals, including five in a 5-2 win over West Point early in the season.

“She is the core of our team,” Stanhope coach Dawn Kelly said. “She plays as hard as she possibly can in every game. You could tell this year was tough for her but she’s hung in there.”

After the season, Cortes admitted it was frustrating to be out on the field sometimes with things going poorly. However, she said she knows she will learn from the experience and she wants to help push her teammates in the right direction.

“I was kind of upset about it but I tried not to show it too much,” Cortes said. “I want to keep motivating the girls, especially the younger ones. I want to encourage them and make sure they keep giving it their all.”

While preparing to play in the annual all-star game, Cortes has continued to work with the Mustangs during the offseason to get ready for next season. She attends the morning workouts at school and makes sure to get some voluntary time on the field with some of her teammates.

“I’ve been participating in the summer workouts at the school with our softball coach,” Cortes said. “It has been really helpful. And I get to go out on the field every other day with a few other girls so I’m still ready to play.”

The North-South girls soccer game is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. at Emory Folmar Soccer Complex in Montgomery. Cortes said she is excited to get to play with some of the best girls in the state, specifically Enterprise’s Jillian Martin and Morgan Harrelson and Northview’s Kathleen Wakefield because she knows what it is like to be their opponents.

“I’m excited to play with some of the Northview and Enterprise girls,” Cortes said. “We’ve played against them a lot but they usually blow us out so I’m hoping I can learn a few things from them.”

Cortes is one of 18 players on the roster which will be coached by Enterprise’s Jill Harrelson and Prattville’s Ryan Strong.

With several college coaches likely to be in attendance, Cortes said there will definitely be a little bit of pressure on her to perform well.

“I’m very nervous about it but I’m also really excited,” Cortes said. “The first couple of minutes can be rusty but you get used to it so it goes away.”

If the opportunity came, Cortes said she would love to play at the collegiate level but she has not received any offers from the next level yet. However, that can change after being put on a big stage like the all-star game.

Despite talking about her dreams, Cortes wants to stay focused on the Mustangs and what they can do better next season. Cortes, who is listed at 5-foot-0, has never found it easy to step up as a leader but she knows her team will need more from her during her senior season.

“I hope I can lead a little more,” Cortes said. “I want to see younger girls come out of their shell this year. I want to show them size doesn’t really matter. I’m short but I want to teach them you can still kick butt.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.