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Soto shows she's tough

Estancia senior, playing with torn labrum, has helped Eagles clinch at least a share of first league title since 2003.

February 04, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Brenda Soto desperately wants to win the Orange Coast League in girls' basketball.

Her body doesn't always seem to share the same sentiment.

Soto's right shoulder is in a black brace. Sometimes it pops out of place.

That's OK, Soto tells herself, ignore the pain. Just pull your arm out until it pops back in.

The shoulder brace straps across her chest. Sometimes that makes it hard for the Estancia High senior guard to breathe.

That's OK, Soto tells herself, just come out of the game for a second before it's back to the races.

Soto has a torn labrum and has dislocated her shoulder several times since the summer. Early in the season, Co-Coach Xavier Castellano told her it might be best to sit out until league play began.

"She wasn't having none of that," Castellano said. "She's a gamer."

Soto hears concern from all directions. Her mother, Maria, doesn't like seeing her daughter suffer on the court. Her older sister by a year, Erika, tells Brenda to be careful after Erika herself played through a torn meniscus the last two years.

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So that's coach, mom and sister who worry about that shoulder.

"Maybe I should listen," Brenda Soto said, knowing she's a three-year varsity starter who can't bear being out of the game. "I feel like [my teammates] are using so much energy, and I'm not doing anything. That's how I always feel [on the bench]. I have to keep playing and playing."

The Eagles (18-6, 8-0 in league) all want to put a "2011" on that championship banner in the gym. They're already clinched at least a share of their first league title in eight years, and they can win it outright at Saddleback on Monday.

They're also a better team when their top defender Soto, all 5-foot-4 of her, is on the floor. She's fifth on the team at 4.9 points per game, but she's always in the passing lanes and always diving on the floor for a steal. In the team's first six league games, she averaged seven steals a game before dislocating her shoulder again Tuesday at Laguna Beach.

It first happened during summer league play, then again in a scrimmage just before the season. Her doctor told her surgery would repair it, but to Soto that wasn't an option her senior year. So she and Castellano looked online and she bought the $140 shoulder brace. Before games, Soto's junior teammate, Alicia Marquez, helps her put it on.

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