As players mature and grow through their high school athletic programs, they tend to improve and, by senior year, flourish. Falmouth defender Riley Duarte is the poster child for that. During her junior year Duarte rarely saw the field, mostly because of the talented seniors ahead of her. This year, she barely left the pitch and became one of her team’s most reliable players on the back end. FHS got better over the course of the season, and the senior was a big part of that.
The daughter of Kevin and Diana Duarte is certainly one of the most enthusiastic student-athletes at FHS. She can bring energy to ordering her morning coffee.
In school she said that history has been her favorite subject. A stuffed animal named Fluffy is her most-prized possession. She said that “She’s The Man,” is her favorite movie, “All-American” is her favorite tv show and N’Sync is her favorite band. Pasta is her go-to meal.
How did you get involved with soccer? How much do you enjoy it?
I started playing soccer when I was 4. I grew up watching my older sisters play and always strived to be like them. I grew up playing other sports like softball and basketball, but soccer really stuck and I just loved the sport, so I started to play it year-round with different teams. I’ve met so many new amazing friends over the years from the sport, which is one of the best parts of the game. I didn’t enjoy it as much until I found my position, which was center defense, in 4th grade. After that I knew I just wanted to get better and stick with it.
Describe your feelings when you found out that you were going to get to play a senior season this year after the spring sports were canceled.
All summer I was afraid of missing out on my senior season because it’s what I’ve been looking forward to since freshman year. I also missed out on a lot of other soccer due to quarantine and I missed playing. When Coach Dubuque sent our team the thumbs-up on the season I was so excited because I knew I was going to have my last high school season and play the game I love with some of my best friends. I knew this year was going to be great because my team was made up of some of the best girls you could ever meet, and I’m forever grateful I had this season with some of my best friends. It’s definitely one I couldn’t forget and I can’t wait to see what the team is going to bring to the table with the amazing players Coach Dubuque has these upcoming years.
Soccer underwent some drastic rule changes this year. How did they change the game for you?
This year my game, along with probably all of the other defenders, changed a lot. It went from being able to play an aggressive game to putting focus on only the ball and being able to play strategically. Although it took some getting used to in the beginning of the season, our defensive line came together and managed to hold it down the last six games we had. Our back line became a brick wall, and we created a sort of chemistry and communication where it came to playing for each other and being able to have one another’s backs. Communication became a key factor when it came to learning the advantages of the new kind of game, which was something my team was able to grasp a hold of and use to our benefit.
Your season just came to an end, in a tough overtime loss. What was it like to get to be in playoff games after everything that the team had gone through this year, and what was it like to have your career end that way?
Since the start of the season, I knew our team was talented and more than capable of doing damage this year, but we had a slow start. It took us a couple games for us to really be comfortable and mesh well. We started showing the kind of team we really are and started taking back our wins. I think our team went into this game in the best way we could have. The way the game ended definitely stunk, but we had that game 1-0 for the majority of the time, and they managed to get a goal after many calls in their favor. On their field that night, you could tell they were the favored team, but we didn’t let that affect our game. Losing in overtime, I felt like I was going to start crying like a baby, but surprisingly managed to get it together quickly; I realized that we just played the best we possibly could have and none of us gave up on each other. I was happy with the game we brought to the table, no matter how bad I wished we could have avoided their tying goal.
What do you think a scouting report would say about you?
I think that it would say that I have good knowledge of the game and am able to anticipate the game really well. I’m able to recognize threats and know when to get first to the ball. I bring a tough and aggressive game and have good leadership qualities in the defensive line. I have a strong kick and, in a non-COVID season, throw-ins, that are able to contribute bringing the game back down the field.
If you could replay one game that you have played in, which one would it be? Why?
I think if I could replay any game, it would be our 2-0 win against Nauset. Winning that game and finally proving what our team is capable of was one of the best feelings, since we had such a slow start to our season. Not to mention putting an end to their undefeated record. The energy we brought out to the field that game was undeniable and brought all of us this motivation that kept each other going. We went into the game with a confident mentality that hyped up the whole team because we knew we could take the win and we did.
What do you consider the highlight of your athletic career so far?
I think a part of my athletic career that I could never forget would be going to the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions with my Mashpee Travel team June of my freshman year. We had an undefeated season that year and got to play up in Lancaster in a tournament weekend with so many teams from all over Massachusetts. It was super cool; we got to stay in a hotel, and playing on those fields is always really fun. We didn’t get too far in the tournament but playing such high-speed competition and being there with my best friends was such an awesome experience. We’re all hoping we have a season this year and have a shot to make our way back one more time.
Who is the best teammate that you’ve ever played with? What makes that person stand out?
Out of many years I spent playing with my Mashpee travel team, one girl I’ll never forget playing with is Brooke Johnston. She’s been one of my best friends since preschool, I remember we used to watch our older sisters play together for Mashpee High School while we played with our Polly Pockets on the sidelines. Brooke and I both started playing soccer in offensive positions until we both gave into our coach, Matthew Theodore, who we eventually let put us both in center defense. Our playing styles clicked and we became a brick wall. She’s a player who is always supporting the team and working hard. I’ve missed playing with her for school sports, but every winter and spring we’re back out on the field together. The attitude she brings to the team keeps everyone motivated and we’ve always worked really well together.
Do you have any sports-related superstitions? If so, what are they?
Not really, but I never feel satisfied going onto the field without doing the huddle and team cheer.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from playing sports?
I think the most important thing I’ve learned from sports is to always play your part because that’s all that is in your control. I’ve learned that only being a positive force on the field is so crucial to the game and supporting your teammates is only going to benefit the team—which is something I can carry with me throughout life. Our best games this season were the ones that we meshed together and only had positive reinforcement, which is something Coach Dubuque is really big about. Being able to put your best foot forward even when things get tough is sometimes hard but one of the most important things to be able to do.
You teach CCD classes at your church. How did you get started with that, and what do you enjoy about it?
My family has always been involved in our church, and I grew up going to Mass regularly. However, sitting through Mass isn’t necessarily my favorite thing to do because it’s so hard for me to sit still and not talk, so I volunteer for the faith formation program, so I can still be active in my faith. After I got confirmed freshman year, I stayed being involved in classes and talking to groups of other kids about staying involved in the community. During high school I joined and led retreats, which kept me active in a bigger community as well providing a reliable support system for me, too. I enjoy it because it’s something that makes me feel really good, and I’m able to bring a relatable point of view about faith and being able to stay involved with it to more teenagers.
Was there anything that you accomplished or worked on improving during quarantine that you’re proud of?
During quarantine for extra hobbies I improved on my graphics and drawing a lot. Other than that I just spent time working out and staying in shape. I went to the field a lot with my friends to kick the ball around and improved on my kicks more, too. All of my other accomplishments during quarantine were definitely just finishing shows on Netflix.
Is there anyone that you would like to thank?
I really want to thank my dad for being my guide throughout sports all my life. He constantly has motivated me and challenged me to up my game. I’ll never forget the car rides after every game, [his] telling me what I should’ve done, what was good and how to do better next game. I’d also like to thank my big brother for being an inspiration in all of his sports, the way he would lead his teams and always stay positive is something I’ve always looked up to, never mind all of the races home from the bus stop, and one-on-one wiffle ball games I lost to him too many times. Also a special thank-you to my mom for being my best friend, and Granny, for being one of my biggest supporters.
What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever visited? Is there somewhere in the world that you’ve always dreamed of going? Why?
Not to be too cheesy, but one of my favorite places is Disney because I love everything about it and all Disney movies. I’ve always dreamed of going to Hollywood. I think it would be so cool to see all of the different places and the stars with all of the names on it. I feel like walking down the street with a cute outfit and an iced coffee would be the best vibes. It’s probably because I watch too much TV, but it’s definitely a plan to live in California for a year or something.
What’s the biggest difference between you as a senior and as a freshman? If you could go back, what advice would you give to your freshman self?
My freshman year I came into Falmouth as the girl from Mashpee with not many friends. I wasn’t the most confident at first because I didn’t really know anyone and let nerves get the best of me. If I could give myself advice, I’d let myself know to play my heart out and feel comfortable because the girls I was playing with would eventually become family.
What is something about you that people would be surprised to learn?
It’s kind of weird, but everyone gets really surprised when they find out I don’t have my ears pierced. I just never came around to it, and honestly have always been too scared.
If you could switch places with one person for a week, who would it be and what would you want to do?
If I could switch places with anyone it would be Ariana Grande because she’s just iconic. She’s always been one of my favorite celebrities, and my favorite singer. If I could be her for a week, I would be able to actually sing, and living her lifestyle for a week would be so fun. She’s a queen.
Describe your idea of the perfect day
My perfect day would be getting to sleep in and waking up to a caramel swirl coffee and breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’. Probably going to the gym, but don’t be fooled—usually the tanning booth is the plan. Spending the day with my whole family and watching my nephew Jayden show off his dance moves usually is one of my favorite things to do. Then probably spending time with my friends and having a group sleepover, playing Dance Dance Revolution would be my perfect day. Can’t forget having a bowl of ramen, binge-watching Netflix, and falling asleep early to end it.
What are your post high school plans?
I’m planning to go to college, and hopefully attend either UMass Amherst or UNH. I hope to study sports management and communications, with plans to minor in graphic design.
Where will you be in 10 years, and what will you be doing?
In 10 years, hopefully I will be living in New England, working for ESPN as a sports anchor. I think it would be really cool to interview the players about their games and host pre/post games. I think more women should be in these roles and it’s something I’d love to do. I would love to stick to hockey, basketball or baseball games because I grew up going to my brother’s and dad’s games doing the score book or being the bat girl.