Anyone with the nerve to challenge the age-old adage that size doesn't matter has obviously never met Rachel Perkins.
The 15-year-old sophomore midfielder at Olympus High is built more like a racehorse jockey than a soccer player, standing at least a head shorter than just about all of the defenders on her team. She is also skinny to the point that she would nearly become translucent if held in front of a strong light.
Perkins, however, has not let size limitations affect her game in the least. The blonde and bubbly mighty mite has used her remarkable speed to tally 10 goals on the season, tops among the Titans for the second straight year.
"I guess I'm just used to being small," Perkins said. "I try to hustle and find other ways to make plays."
A prime example of Perkins' natural shiftiness and playmaking ability occurred in a match against region rival Cottonwood on Sept. 22. Midway through the second half, the undersized dynamo took a long pass from a teammate and turned a potential turnover into the game's first goal.
After using her speed to chase down an errant ball deep within Cottonwood territory, Perkins played the ball off a bounce, using her head to send it over a defender and right onto the foot of teammate Diane Tempest, who quickly found the back of the net for the go-ahead score.
"That was just a hustle play," said Olympus coach Kate Markie. "Rachel is very fit, very fast, and very skilled. That's why she is able to put herself in position to make plays like that one."
At the beginning of last season, Markie was initially impressed by Perkins' work ethic in practice, but quickly realized that the fate of the whole team was tied to the 14-year-old freshman, making it even more important to the team to keep Perkins' 5-foot-3-inch frame in one piece.
"I used to worry about her getting hurt," Markie said. "But now I'm pretty sure that she tackles too hard for that to happen. I think she's more likely to hurt someone else."
Olympus is presently in third place in the Region 6 standings after falling to both East and Murray in overtime heartbreakers. If the Titans are to avenge their region losses in the state tournament, they will need Rachel to continue playing with the intensity that has become her trademark.
"I'm not used to the pressure yet," Perkins said. "For us to win, I know that I need to play my best every single game."
Judging by the stat sheet, playing her best hasn't been much of a problem for Perkins this season. She has not only surpassed, but doubled the number of goals she recorded as a freshman in spite of being double-teamed by the defense in nearly every match.
"I hate giving up," Perkins said. "I try my hardest no matter what the situation is."