by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
When Jessica Bianchi’s coach watched her blow past boys in a scrimmage recently, she was impressed but not surprised.
“Meaning this in the most complimentary way possible, Jessica plays soccer like a boy,” said Holly Sutton, asked to assess the Rogers senior midfielder’s impact on a game.
“Her speed of play, physicality, determination and competitiveness …make her a fantastic girls high school soccer player. If you can outplay the boys’ speed during a girls vs. boys high school scrimmage, you know you are something special.”
The 5-foot-5, 130-pound athlete was voted team MVP on last year’s 24-0, state championship team, even with three Division I bound seniors on the roster, leading the Royals in scoring with 42 points.
Sutton cited her “work ethic, and the ability to set the standard of performance” for the MVP honor. She holds Bianchi as a “standard” for the other girls because of her fitness, technical abilities and competitiveness.”
This year Bianchi has two goals in five games for the 3-2 Royals and her corner kick led to Gabby Moter’s game-winner in a 2-1 win over Park Center. She is clearly the team leader after heavy graduation losses.
“I like that, but it’s different because I’ve always been the young one, and now I’m the older one,” said Bianchi, adding that her job is essentially the same: “As a center mid my job is to set up plays and shoot when I have to. I like to score but my biggest strength is passing the ball around.”
A letterwinner since eighth grade, Bianchi notched five goals and eight assists as a sophomore, picking up her first all-conference honor and helped the Royals win conference and section championships. They lost 1-0 in the first round of state to the eventual champions, Orono.
Last season, she pounded in 26 goals and made 16 assists, capped by the two Metrodome games when she had the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Chisago Lakes and two goals in a 3-1 finals win over Mahtomedi, obviously making the all-tournament team.
About that dream season, Bianchi reflects: “We had a lot of talent and we had played together since we were little kids. We thought we would make it to state, but going 24-0 and winning the championship, we were a little surprised by that.”
There’s no let-up on defense for Bianchi, either, said the coach: “She works harder at defending a ball back than any high school soccer player I have watched.”
Asked about her trademark aggressiveness, Bianchi chuckled, “I am a very competitive person. I don’t want anyone to take the ball from me.”
A year-round soccer player, Bianchi has also lettered in track since seventh grade, consistently scoring points in distance runs with personal-bests of 5:32 in the 1600 and 11:58 in the 3200.
Bianchi, who is home-schooled and takes just one class (Physics) at RHS, is already committed to Concordia-St. Paul.
She anticipates another big season for Rogers, now playing in Class AA.
“Expectations are different because this is a rebuilding year, after losing a lot of good seniors but we’ll still be pretty good.”
THE BIANCHI SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 18 today … Family: parents Lisa and Steve; brother Jonathan, 21 … Sports: soccer, track … Academics: 4.0 GPA …. College plans: Concordia-St. Paul, soccer, major undecided
Favorite stuff — Class: math, science … TV show: “How I Met Your Mother” … Food: quarter-pounder at MacDonald’s … Drink: Powerade blue … Reading: “Hunger Games” series … Athlete: Lionel Mess … Kickback: camping, hiking … Place she’d like to visit: “Tour of Europe”