By Troy Mauriello
St. John’s soccer freshman Maia Cabrera has been prepared for this moment for quite some time now.
A three-sport standout at Forest Hills High School, Cabrera excelled on the soccer field, where she scored 15 goals in just eight games during her senior season in 2016. Last summer, she was selected to play on Israel’s U19 team for the UEFA European Championships, even scoring a goal against Russia in the Qualifying Round.
So now, it would be safe to expect Cabrera, as a freshman at St. John’s, to come in with all of the confidence in the world that she’ll set the world on fire for the Red Storm, right? Well, not exactly.
For all of her success on the high school and international level, Cabrera knows that she’ll have to prove herself with St. John’s, just like all of her fellow Red Storm freshman.
“You have to earn your spot on the team, and I’m willing to work for that as hard as I can,” she said. “So I guess that will be a hard challenge, because I know that every girl wants their spot on the team.”
Cabrera noted that she gained this knowledge from her time at Forest Hills, where she was a standout throughout her four seasons with the Lady Rangers. Perhaps more important, she gained a solid amount of leadership qualities as the best player on her high school squad.
The Lady Rangers, Cabrera admitted, were not one of the top team’s in the city throughout her time with the school, but she was able to become a leader on the team almost right away as her teammates looked to her for guidance on the field.
“A lot of the girls looked up to me because they knew I played club soccer and they knew that I took soccer very seriously and they knew that I played at a high level,” she said. “I felt like I was the captain every year that I played there, so it made me feel like a good leader there, and it made me feel like I was leading them the right way.”
But aside from her time as a leader in high school, Cabrera earned some valuable experience that prepared her for the collegiate level when she played overseas with the Israeli National Team. Although her stint last summer wasn’t incredibly long, logging three games total, she noted how the training and travel that went along with playing internationally were almost identical to her experience so far at St. John’s.
“It was kind of like being away at college because you have two practices a day, you’re with the team all the time, you’re dorming,” she said. “And it really did prepare me best for St. John’s because I came into St. John’s kind of already having the feel for what it was like.”
Through all of her past success, Cabrera finds herself ready to roll at St. John’s. But oddly enough, staying to play her college ball in Queens wasn’t always the plan.
In fact, Cabrera noted that early on in her recruitment, she wasn’t seriously considering St. John’s because she did not want to play close to home. But after intense recruitment from the St. John’s coaching staff, namely head coach Ian Stone, she could sense the opportunity for a bright future with the Red Storm.
“I was talking to Ian and he was always the one talking to me about how he wanted me to go to St. John’s, so it was really easy to just go,” she said. “And he really wanted me bad so it kind of made me feel like I was going to be a big part of the team and I was going to be wanted there.”
At St. John’s, Cabrera will get a chance to play in front of family and friends every home game at Belson Stadium. While some see that as both a blessing and a curse, because of the pressure that it can bring on, Cabrera seems more than excited for the opportunity.
In the Red Storm’s first exhibition game against Fordham on Aug. 9, Cabrera scored a goal in front of a home crowd that included many of her friends and family. She hopes that type of play in front of those loved ones will only continue as the years go by.
“All my friends came and all my family came and it was really exciting,” she said. “It kind of pushed me to play better because everyone was watching, so I really like that.”