RACINE — At first glance, Genevieve Cruz didn’t pass the eye test from first-year Horlick High School soccer coach Matt Tuttle.
To Tuttle, Cruz’s walk looked labored. Her running style appeared disjointed and had no rhythm. Hardly the makeup of a spectacular scorer who netted 43 goals as a junior for the Rebels, thought Tuttle.
Then he saw Cruz with a soccer ball.
Doubt evaporated into disbelief.
“She sprung to it with grace, speed and a competitive drive I equate to Michael Jordan,” said Tuttle, who finished his first season as the Rebels head coach. “Sheer, raw, transformative power. She looked like she was tripping or stumbling over the ball, but her touches are so precise. After seeing this routinely in games and practice, I knew it was the skill others had noted from years past.”
Racine County soccer coaches once again noted Cruz’s skills and voted her Racine County Player of the Year for the second season in a row.
The University of Nebraska signee scored 43 goals, left Horlick with a school-record 126 goals, and helped a youthful Rebels side to a 12-10 record and a berth in the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinals.
Cruz had many highlights during a dazzling, highlight-filled senior season:
On April 11, Cruz was battling injuries, but had two assists in a 5-1 win over Case. “It was not her best game and it was early in the season,” said Case coach Karen Hardcastle. “With that said, Gen dribbles like a professional soccer player. It’s clear that the hard work she has put in club, allowed her to excel as a ball handler.”
On May 2 against Franklin, Cruz got a long ball served to her in the box. With her back to the goal, she flipped the ball over her head and sent it over the goalkeeper’s head for a goal.
On May 6 at the Racine County Showcase, Cruz scored all five goals in a 5-4 win over Waterford. Wolverines senior forward Lauren Torhorst — runner-up in the player of the year voting — scored all four goals for Waterford.
“The game we had against her was — aside from the final score — such a pleasure to watch,” said Waterford coach Rob Blascoe. “Her and Lauren going back and forth scoring all the goals in the game, and she’s the first one to greet me after the game. Her ability on the ball in tight space will be a huge asset in the college game as it is rarer that you are allotted big pockets of space to play in.”
On May 23, Cruz scored seven goals in a 10-0 win over Southeast Conference and city rival Park. “Genevieve made extremely aggressive off-the-ball runs to get into attacking position,” said Park coach Matt Maletis. “That, coupled with a quick, dynamic set up, gave her multiple good looks at the goal.”
On June 3 in a WIAA regional final against Kenosha Bradford, Cruz squashed any chance of a Red Devil comeback by taking the ball at midfield, dribbling through nearly the entire Bradford defense, and scoring a goal 10 seconds after Bradford cut the score to 3-1.
While others marvel at her skills, Cruz sees herself as player who simply wants her teammates to play well and to win matches.
“I have always tried to be a team player before everything,” she said. “I’m not really a goal scorer. When it happens, it happens. I’ve always been a player who wants to make my teammates better. I usually think through where we are in the game to decide whether to take a shot. It’s in the moment. If I decide I’m going to shoot, I know I can kick it.”
Cruz started playing soccer when she was 4 years old. Her mother coached her in Racine Area Soccer Association games. “She put me up top and I scored and scored,” Cruz said. “Then she put me on defense and I still scored. Then she would take me out. But I learned to love the game.”
Cruz moved on to the Racine Spartans soccer club, then to her current club, Racine United. After her junior season at Horlick, Cruz considered skipping her senior year of high school soccer to play club all season long.
“I thought about it, but I was committed to the people, the players and coaches who never gave up on me and always supported me,” Cruz said.
Cruz started at Nebraska in late May. In fact, she missed her final game for Horlick, a 5-0 loss to Muskego in the sectional semifinals. She is taking two courses this summer, as well as training individually three times a week and practicing with the team twice a week.
“I’m really happy with the choice I made,” Cruz said. “Ever since I started playing soccer I have wanted to be a professional player. I really can see myself doing that. And I’m ready to do whatever it takes to do that.”