HELMETTA/SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Amanda Mendez is better known by her Spotswood High School girls soccer teammates, friends and family as Mandee. The senior recently committed to take her exceptional soccer skills to Rider University's division one women's soccer program. Mendez has been a standout for the Chargers since she became a starting midfielder freshman year.

The Helmetta native's very first soccer team was the Groundhogs. She hit the field as a four-year-old with the Spotswood Soccer Club. Her earliest soccer memory was playing on the field with her teammates and being proud of wearing her uniform along with her pink cleats.

"My mom made a blanket out of the picture that I loved of myself," Mendez said of her first soccer season.

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It wasn't long before Mendez moved on to travel soccer and the Monroe Township Hawks. Today, she plays for FC Copa G03 Black NL, which is an elite travel academy team in Metuchen, in addition to being one of the captains for the Chargers girls varsity soccer team. The announcement about her decision to commit to Rider comes before the start of her final season in blue and gold for Spotswood High School.

"Other schools had offered me spots, but they never really sparked my interest," Mendez said. "Everyone from Rider that I've talked to was super welcoming. I met a few girls on campus on my first visit, and they seemed like girls I'd love to be my future teammates. Coach Drayson was really nice as well and really easy to talk to."

"Going to a small school all my life at Spotswood High School made me come to the realization that Rider's size was just right for me," Mendez added.

Mendez was relieved to make the all-important decision on which soccer program and educational institution she would commit her future to.

"The amount of work I've put in and obstacles I overcame were so worth it," she added.

The midfielder is extremely competitive by nature and is thrilled about taking her game to the next level with Rider.

"I'm mostly excited about the competition and how much more competitive it will be," she said. "I'm a competitive person in general, so I can't wait for this to push me even more that I'm being pushed."

Mendez's coach at Spotswood High School, Michael Reid was not surprised the teen is an early commit to a division one women's soccer program.

"On top of being talented there takes a certain dedication and drive to play at the next level, and she possesses all of those qualities," Reid said of Mendez. "She has worked extremely hard on improving different aspects of soccer abilities over the past couple of years and it has paid off. I could not be happier for her as she deserves it."

"She came into our program as a very talented center back from teams and clubs that she played for," Reid continued. "However, she has only played one game for us at center back over the past three seasons. My goal from the start was to play her in a midfield position where she could defend at times, but also allow her to get into the attack and help the team create and score goals. Since then, she has become one of the best midfielders in the county. We even moved her to the forward position off and on last season, and she finished the season with 17 goals and 14 assists.  She now has the ability to play multiple positions which helps our team and is very important at the college level."
In addition to her play with the Chargers and FC Copa, Mendez is a bright student and an active participant in other Spotswood High School activities. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Girls Learn International, the Community Service Club, Kids Create and a member of the high school's award-winning DECA program.
The upcoming soccer season is a shortened one because of the coronavirus pandemic and it will also be the final one for Mendez. She has one opportunity left to help the Chargers earn a division title. A Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division title has eluded the varsity program during's Mendez's time on the field with Spotswood High School.
"We have come very close a few times to winning the division, but fell short," Mendez said of her soccer experience at Spotswood High School. "I've made some new friends and got even closer to girls I was never really close with. Playing midfield with Kirti made our bond unbreakable."
"I'm looking forward to getting one last shot to play with some girls that I've known my whole life and some I've even played with since the beginning," the teen said of her final Spotswood season that begins on October 3 against Dunellen High School.
"From a soccer aspect, she is one of the most talented players to come through the school program who brings hard work and dedication to the program," Reid said of Mendez. "She really does lead by example as one of our three captains this season. Most importantly she is a good person and has a positive influence on the rest of the soccer program."
"Our entire coaching staff has enjoyed getting to know Mandee over the past couple of seasons," Reid added. "We are looking forward to her being a major part of our soccer program as well as seeing her continuing to develop and getting ready for college soccer next year."