Apex: Work hard, play hard


Muthu Panchanatham

Ishaan Mantripragada (11) began playing soccer at the age of five. As a striker, Ishaan relies on his physical attributes as well as his awareness to bypass his defenders and score goals.

by Muthu Panchanatham, Co-Sports Editor

A complacent defender watches as the ball arrives at his feet, believing he has time to control it and pass to someone else. Seemingly out of nowhere, a figure clad in dark green flies at him with incredible speed, taking the ball off his foot and pushing it in the opposite direction. Driving towards the opponents goal, the forward outspeeds another defender and finds that the keeper is the only player between him and the goal. Although the goalie lumbering out to meet him might seem intimidating to some, the attacker does not falter. After assessing the situation, he calmly cuts to the left, leaving the keeper in the turf behind him, and passes the ball into the back of the net with ease. A natural scorer, Ishaan Mantripragada (11) isn’t afraid of missing— partially because that doesn’t happen very often.

From the age of five, Ishaan has been a striker intent on scoring every time he touches the ball. Despite his affinity for offense, he is also determined to go after the other team’s defenders when they have the ball and pick it off in the back field. When Ishaan is dribbling, he’s able to take on defenders and surprise them with one of his unique traits.

“I’m left-footed, so I can’t really compare being left-footed and being right-footed. But, when I’m going up against defenders, they feel it’s different because they haven’t faced many left-footed people. It catches them off guard,” Ishaan said.

Ishaan’s strengths lie in his speed and toughness on the ball. To bypass defenders, he often utilized the “kick it far and run” strategy, a move that can only be executed if one has pace superior to that of the defender. Over time, he has honed his technical skills and physicality in order to weave through defenders and hold his ground against players with a size advantage.

“Since I started playing, I’ve been one of the faster players on the field. I used to be able to just kick the ball and run. I didn’t have to rely on my technical skills,” Ishaan said. “Over the past few years, opponents have been getting bigger and stronger, so I’ve started to develop my dribbling much more. I can still incorporate my pace, which is really helpful.”

In addition to his physical capabilities, Ishaan’s awareness and intelligence allow him to control the tempo of the game. He picks out his targets calmly and finds the open man. His mental strength influences those around him, encouraging them to work even harder. 

“He can really stretch out the field. He’s able to play the ball behind the defensive line, or drive past them and deliver a cross. Ishaan’s scored some pretty important goals in important matches. He really lifts the intensity of the team as a whole,” Arthur Kajiyama (11), a midfielder on the varsity boys soccer team and one of Ishaan’s De Anza Force teammates, said.

When Ishaan steps onto the pitch, he makes sure to accomplish what he set out to do by not holding back and playing with high intensity. Although aggressive on the field, Ishaan is actually outgoing and lighthearted in his interactions with his friends. His confidence, however, remains the same no matter where he is.

“On the field, he’s a very confident player. He’s able to take his chances as they come, and he doesn’t let any one performance dictate the next one. He’s able to make a meaningful impact on a game with just a few opportunities,” Sasvath Ramachandran (11), one of Ishaan’s Harker teammates since 6th grade, said. “In person, it’s very similar as well. He’s never stressed or worrying about anything. He lives in the moment and is really fun to be around.”

A true team player, Ishaan acknowledges that the key to success is collaboration. Every player, no matter what position, has to be willing to contribute in order to win. As one of the more experienced players on the Harker team, Ishaan is always willing to offer advice to his teammates in order to help them improve.

“Soccer is a team sport and I love that about it. Forwards have to defend at some point, and defenders have to try and score eventually. Everyone has different roles, but everyone has the same goal. The whole team has to work together to achieve its goal,“ Ishaan said.

Determined to improve his own skills, Ishaan believes that bettering one’s self everyday is crucial to being a good player. He finds practice rewarding and dedicates himself to eliminating his weaknesses.

“Be better than you were yesterday. If I couldn’t do something well or get past my teammate in practice the previous day, I make it a point to work on and fix that before the next practice. I work hard as I can while enjoying every moment of it,” Ishaan said.

Ishaan demonstrated his worth on the field when he helped the varsity boys soccer team to a CCS championship, scoring goals and penalty kicks in pivotal moments along the way. He was also a driving factor in the team’s NorCals second place run. Along with his playmaking ability,  Ishaan’s leadership and unwavering conviction proved invaluable in a season for the record books. 

“Before the season started, a big topic of discussion on the team was whether or not Ishaan would be playing. The fact that we were discussing one singular player to such a large extent, exemplifies the impact he has,” Sasvath said. “He lived up to that expectation, scoring consistently and was one of the highest scorers on our team. I don’t think we would have made it as far as we did in the playoffs without him.”