What else could Alyssa Gamaldo do?
Her father, Victor, and uncle, Lincoln Phillips, played soccer for their home country of Trinidad and Tobago. They both played professionally for the Washington Darts, and Phillips later coached at Howard University and ran successful summer camps where Gamaldo attended and in time became a counselor.
"Basically, I grew up around soccer," said Gamaldo, a senior at Howard High. "It's just natural for me to like it."
And with such surroundings, perhaps it is just as natural that Gamaldo has turned out the way she has.
"She's as good as anybody in the county," said Howard coach Dave Vezzi. "She's a complete player. She's very good in the air, and very good on the ground with both feet. She's an all-around good player."
Gamaldo plays sweeper for the Lions, who received a first-round bye in the class 3A-4A West Regional and will play the winner of tomorrow's Westminster-Woodlawn game. But she could play anywhere.
"She's a really versatile player," said Vezzi. "She's got the strongest shot on the team and probably is the best header we have. She's the kind of kid that can play any position and you would have total confidence in her."
Vezzi began coaching at Howard when Gamaldo was a freshman. He started her at striker then moved her to halfback her sophomore season.
Last year, she started at center midfield before switching to stopper halfway through the season.
This year she started at sweeper, replacing graduated All-County performer Rebecca Powell.
Gamaldo likes playing defense and the challenges of being the last line of defense.
"Sometimes it feels like all the pressure is on you," said Gamaldo. "It can be nerve-wracking. Every time a goal is scored, I think about what I could have done differently. It does get to me. I think my sole purpose is to make sure my goalie is not in a one-on-one position.
"One of the hardest things is whether you want to commit or lay off. If you commit, they can pull a move on you and go right by you. If you don't they can take a shot and score."
Vezzi feels Gamaldo is "more comfortable as a defensive player. She's capable of making some good runs from the sweeper position. She likes the challenges of a one-on-one situation, and that's an aspect of the game she's very good at. She's got a lot of confidence in herself.
"I can't remember a situation this year where she was beate that resulted in a goal."
Gamaldo's father also played defense, and he often has words of advice for his daughter during and after games.
"After the game he tells me all my errors and what I need to work on," said Gamaldo, who added that her father attends most of her games.
Gamaldo played for her father only once, when she joined his Seneca Spirit travel team last year.
"My dad's one of my favorite coaches," she said. "He's very helpful.
"I think I played the best with my dad. I try to play my games now like I did then. I think I played up to my full potential."
Gamaldo has good ball-control skills, is quick -- she runs indooand outdoor track -- and plays smart. She also is smart, having a 3.9 grade-point average.
She wants to play soccer in college, but is looking at universities first for their academics. She is interested in George Washington, Virginia, St. Mary's, William & Mary and Georgetown.
Gamaldo is not a vocal player but rather, said Vezzi, "a leader by example. Her play speaks for itself. She doesn't have a real weakness."