Lilly Marquez might not have the strongest knees, but her feet — and her heart — more than compensate.
(ABOVE: W.T. White senior Lilly Marquez hopes to lead the Longhorns on a deep playoff run this spring. Photos by Chris McGathey)
The W.T. White senior has torn two knee ligaments playing soccer. But she’s bounced back both times, seemingly better than ever. Now the speedy midfielder is leading the Longhorns to perhaps their best season in recent memory.
“I came back harder and more confident,” Marquez said. “It’s more mental. You just can’t be scared when you come back.”
Marquez has been playing soccer since she was 4 years old, following in the footsteps of both of her parents and her older sister. But she admits that her first major knee injury during her eighth-grade season was a wake-up call.
“I thought my whole world was gone. Soccer was my main priority, and I was kind of depressed,” she said. “Once it was taken away from me, it put things into perspective.”
Still, she showed resiliency and toughness the next season, making the WTW varsity squad as a freshman and continuing to excel on her longtime club team, Dallas D’Feeters Kicks. During her sophomore year, however, Marquez tore up her other knee, requiring another surgery and another six months of recovery.
“To overcome that has been an incredible journey,” said WTW head coach Hank Alven. “You never hear her complain about it.”
With the quickness to maneuver past defenders one-on-one, Marquez is the leading goal-scorer for the Longhorns, who are hoping for a deep postseason run this year after being eliminated in the bi-district playoff round in each of the past three seasons.
But her leadership is felt in other ways, too. She has posted a career-high assist total and has become more vocal as a team captain.
“She can score three goals a game, but at times she’s shown to be an unselfish player. She tries to get her teammates involved,” Alven said. “People look up to her not just for her abilities. What she says carries weight.”
Marquez also has competed on the school’s track team every spring, once soccer is finished. Earlier this year, she even joined some of her friends on the wrestling team. Despite never having competed before, she qualified for regionals.
“It was a different experience,” said Marquez, who has signed a scholarship to play at the University of Texas at El Paso next year. “I really like new challenges.”