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Girls Athlete of the Week: Gainesville's Jazmin Penado

POSTED: March 12, 2014 9:17 p.m.

Gainesville junior forward Jazmin Penado has been a soccer standout since her freshman year.

Now, in her third season with the Lady Red Elephants, Penado is proving that she can be a leader on and off the field, providing goals and guidance to her team.

“She is quiet and confident,” said coach Mark Wade. “She just does whatever it takes to make us successful. She’s our backup goalkeeper, she plays forward, and she can play in the back.”

Penado showed her skills last week when she scored two second-half goals to tie the game and assisted the game-winning goal as Gainesville rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat West Hall 5-4 on Friday.

For her efforts, Penado is The Times Girls Athlete of the Week.

In addition to her obvious skill on the field, Penado has maturity and leadership beyond her years, according to Wade. So, when he began thinking about a captain for this season’s team, only one name popped in his head.

“There was never a decision to be made,” Wade said. “I made her the captain of this year’s team the day after last season ended. A lot of our start to the season has been due to her leadership."

The Lady Red Elephants are 7-0-1 so far with just six upperclassmen on the roster, so Penado’s role as a leader on the pitch and on the sidelines is magnified even more.

“Being a really young team, it’s great to have someone like Jazmin who can keep all the groups together,” Wade said. “A lot of time, freshmen will be shy, but she is really approachable and has helped them fit into the team much faster than normal.”

Wade attributes part of Penado’s ability to connect with younger players to her skill and leadership at a younger age as well, which has only developed through the years.

“Instantly, everybody likes Jazmin,” Wade said. “I don’t think she’s ever had an enemy. She is one of those kids that’s really mature for her age. There was never any adjustment period with her.”

Although Penado didn’t need to adjust to varsity play in her first season, she’s certainly capable of helping the entire team make adjustments during games, which Wade believes is another reason for this team’s success.

“She is one of the most talented players that we have, and she’s quiet, so when she does speak, everybody listens,” Wade said.

During halftime in Friday’s game, Penado seized the chance to make herself heard and change the way her team was playing.

“We came off and went to the sidelines and talked about small adjustments,” Wade said. “Jazmin spoke up and said a few things to some players individually about things to do differently in the second half.”

After making some changes of her own, Penado’s advice paid off for the Lady Red Elephants as she scored twice to make the game 4-4, despite a slight injury.

“She actually got hurt during the game before she scored the tying goal,” Wade said. “She limped up to the corner kick before she finished it, and since then we’ve had a lot of people emulating that dedication.”

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