SOUTH JORDAN — After breaking her ankle nearly three-fourths of the way through her sophomore soccer season last year, Bingham High's Natasha Aiono was forced to stay on the sidelines and watch her team finish second in the state tournament.
This year, Aiono plans on playing, but even more important, contributing.
Contributing is something Aiono, one of the few returning starters for Bingham, must do as a young Bingham team tries to overcome losing 10 seniors.
That doesn't concern Aiono, though, as she has high hopes for the "really good freshmen" on the young team. But mostly, Aiono is just happy to be playing.
"I just love playing," said Aiono, who plays forward for the team. "I don't know (why), I just do."
That's why it was so difficult for Aiono to watch her team play last season and not be able to contribute.
"It was hard," Aiono said.
Not that Aiono wasn't determined to play last year. She started every game until she broke her ankle in a game against Jordan.
She even tried to play in the state tournament, playing two minutes in the quarterfinals, but had to come out due to pain.
"(My ankle) was hurting really bad," Aiono said. "I had to come out."
The determination to play started when Aiono was 4-years-old, playing in the recreational leagues. As she continued to have the desire to compete and play, Aiono joined a competitive league at age 10.
Aiono plays for the club team Sparta, a team that went undefeated in the regular season last year, with a few fellow Bingham players. Playing both on a club team and a high school team is pretty standard for many girls, but it does demand a huge amount of time and commitment year-round. Many club teams, which play indoors in the winter and outdoors in the spring, start right after the high school playoffs end and continue through the summer.
"I got home from the Sparta tournament the day before high school (tryouts) started," Aiono said.
Playing year-round only helps the girls, first-year Bingham coach Kevin Vander Veur said. Not only do many of the club teams play nationally, they also play at a higher level than many of the high schools, which makes the coaches at the collegiate level pay just as much, if not more, attention to the club teams than the high school teams, he said.
Aiono, who dreams of playing soccer at the collegiate level, also played for the Utah Olympic Development Program team.