Freshman to senior: Varsity athletes remember their Redwood career

PJ Pfeiffer

Making a varsity sports team is no easy task, especially as a freshman when other athletes are several years older. Four-year varsity athletes are sparse, but these athletes who fit this distinction include soccer players Erik Zolezzi and Anouk Guilhaume and cross-country runner Tyler Woods. Playing all four years has undoubtedly affected each person as an athlete and a student.



Erik Zolezzi, who plays right-back defense, has been playing competitive soccer since he was nine years old. He mainly played for Mill Valley Fusion until he was 13, when he switched to play for Marin Football Club (FC). With soccer tryouts starting on Nov. 4, Zolezzi is excited to play for the varsity team again. Despite the team winning the league championship two years ago, Zolezzi believes this year’s team is going to be the best it has ever been. 

According to Zolezzi, the team was mostly comprised of sophomores two years ago. Now the majority of the players are going to be upperclassmen that are ready to lead the team. Zolezzi remembers when he was lead by upperclassmen and recalls the difficulty of playing against such high competition in his freshman year.

“I got pushed by the people around me…they were pushing me to be better because the level [of play] was higher than what I had been used to,” Zolezzi said.

Photo Courtesy of The Marin IJ
Dribbling to get past a Novato defender, Zolezzi uses his skills to force himself closer to the goal.

Not only did his teammates encourage him to improve, but he also pursued his own goal of becoming the best on the field. Zolezzi tried to get better every season since freshman year and still strives to improve as much as he can. Playing for four years has allowed Zolezzi to see both his athleticism and leadership grow with the team. 

“As I’ve gone from the youngest to the oldest, I’ve taken the leadership role from what [the upperclassmen] taught me. I’m trying to be that guy for the younger kids this year…I’ve been exposed to higher levels of the game, and I feel like it’s taught me to play and understand soccer better,” Zolezzi said. 



Anouk Guilhaume plays left-back defense and left attacker for the girls’ varsity soccer team. Throughout high school, she has also continued playing soccer for Marin Football Club (FC), which she joined prior to making the varsity team in 2016 as a freshman.

“[The] environment to play [varsity] as an underclassman was great because people are very helpful when you’re a freshman,” Guilhaume said. 

According to Guilhaume, she was intimidated by some of the best players in the league, but wanted to reach their level and become a leader for the team.

She believes that she has improved over the past four years and is hopeful to be one of the captains of the team in the coming season. Since last year’s team was predominantly seniors, Guilhame believes the loss of talent might make it difficult to win this year.

Photo Courtesy of Anouk Guilhaume
Dribbling the ball across the field, Guilhaume dodges a defender.

“A lot of starting players graduated, but we do have a very young team [that] is very good. I think we have a decent chance of doing as well as we did in the past years,” Guilhaume said.

According to Guilhaume, a vital factor in having a successful season is assisting the younger players and making them feel like they are a part of the team. Guilhaume said that she, as well as the other upperclassmen, help the underclassmen become accustomed to the new team and explain to them what they can improve on. 

“I think playing a team sport is very much just like teamwork, leadership roles and learning to compromise with other people. [We are all] trying to find a solution with other people and working with them rather than against them,” Guilhaume said. 


From joining the team two weeks late freshman year to now being a co-captain, Tyler Woods has learned a lot about running, especially the difficulty of performing at a varsity level as a freshman.

“[As a freshman], I watched those varsity girls go out for 90-minute runs and I didn’t think I was ever going to be at that level. It was really intimidating,” Woods said. 

According to Woods, as a freshman, she had energy and focused on what she could do better, putting in the effort day in and day out. But as she moved up to her junior and senior years, she realized that being a four-year varsity athlete takes a toll on your academic life, especially with the increase in homework and advanced classes. Yet, Woods is still able to overcome the difficulty of her schedule and uses her experience to help other teammates.

Photo Courtesy of Tyler Woods
Pulling up from behind, Woods comes up close to the competitor.

She stated that being a captain is a difficult leadership position because the role entails managing the team during practices. However, she knows how to lead the team well before a meet.

“I explain to [the team] what to do before races, how to eat well and prepare yourself for meets,” Woods said. 

It is more difficult to manage the underclassmen as they are new to the sport and most of them have not been on a varsity team before. Woods hopes to pass on the knowledge that she wishes she knew She believes that a varsity athlete should be someone who cares about their team and puts in maximum effort for those around them.