Having a short memory is often a good trait in sports. But the bad taste lingering in the mouth of a Mansfield girls soccer player has been serving as motivation to work and improve this offseason.
Senior-to-be Destiny Culclager still gets a rise in her blood pressure when she thinks about the final five seconds of the Region I semifinal contest against Keller.
Mansfield had battled back to tie the game with Keller and controlled most of the second half. In the last five seconds, Keller managed a miracle goal which ended the Lady Tigers’ season.
“It’s a huge motivation,” Culclager said. “I want to face Keller again. That last five seconds is everything to me.”
The push to return with a team which graduated 13 seniors this past school year could weigh heavily on Culglager’s shoulders, but it’s a burden she welcomes.
Culclager will be the returning leading scorer for Mansfield and it will be a new era of sorts.
“This will be the first time in four years it’s not Hannah Webb,” said Mansfield head coach George Velten.
“She’s trying to take over that role (as leading scorer). She’s a great worker and still improving as a player, so we’re really looking forward to watching her grow and continue to get better,” Velten added.
During the summer, Culclager is continuing her play with the Sting Central Parker 99 select team. That squad was playing in a regional tournament last weekend in North Carolina before traveling to the national event in Indianapolis, July 11-13.
“I’m focusing on upping my game and making my play faster,” she said. “I want to get better in one-on-one situations, turns, touches and working on things the college coaches say I need to work on.”
Although Culclager has yet to commit to a college, making a decision by the year’s end is definitely high on her list.
A three-year starter, Culclager has been playing on increasingly competitive teams since the age of 7. Now that her senior year is near, she’s heading into the summer season with goals set for her final varsity campaign.
“I want to score more goals than last year (16) and get past the regionals and go farther. I also want to be more of a team motivator and leader and become the district MVP,” said the first-team all-district player from last season.
What helped get Culclager to the all-district team was her focus on three elements of her game: quickness, technical ability and aggressiveness.
She said she tries to stay ahead of the game in her thought process. Playing fast makes it difficult to read what she’s doing next.
That proactive thinking and play also positions Culclager well for her other role on the team, as a leader.
Drawing upon her experience of playing with other leaders such as Webb for the last three years has given Culclager a reference point.
“After the season, I got a little taste of it and I think I know what to do and what to expect,” she said of her senior leadership responsibilities. “I’m ready to assume the role and be more of a team leader than in the past.”