The return from the long COVID-19 hiatus has presented challenges for local high school teams, but ‘our mentality is being grateful for being out there.’
By ASHLEY MACKIN-SOLOMON
APRIL 28, 2021 7 AM PT
It goes without saying that soccer is an intense, stamina-driven sport with a lot going on at once. So for the local high school players who had been unable to play at their schools since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, jumping back into the season feet first has been a challenge unlike any other.
“It’s hard to keep up in soccer shape when you aren’t actually playing, but they did well,” said La Jolla High School boys soccer coach Marcos Gonzalez. “You could see the tired legs at the end of the day because the players aren’t used to the repetition of training. It takes time and repetition, and some forgot about that during the pandemic. But we’re doing better and better. Now we are in a good spot.”
The truncated season started in late March, and “COVID hit us hard in the beginning, when everyone had not been able to play. But they are just excited to be back and playing with friends. … We have good talent, good chemistry.”
At The Bishop’s School, the boys team is facing the same struggle.
Coach Shane Walton said that when it came to training, the school couldn’t facilitate much.
“Typically we would do strength and conditioning twice a week, but because this year’s sports season is so condensed, we just don’t have the resources to do that” because there is one strength and conditioning coach, Walton said. “We’re doing as much as we can, and the kids are trying to get in shape, but it’s hard to get in soccer shape.”
Though “it’s a really tricky season,” Walton said the Knights are just happy to have one. Like La Jolla, they’re playing around .500 ball so far.
“This is my fourth year running the program and the culture this season is incredible,” he said. “Jackson Kent and Dhruvi Banerjee are two seniors that have been with me for all four years; they are what we are looking for in an athlete. They are incredible with the younger players, they are affirming and merciful and they further entrench what we want our culture to be.”
At La Jolla Country Day School, the girls soccer program had a “virtual preseason” to get back in soccer shape. Coach Siana Mayer created a “sweat calendar” with an exercise for each player to do on a different day. The team was broken into three groups to facilitate bonding and help the players keep one another motivated. Couple that with the fact that many of the players are multisport athletes and were ready to take the field when the season started.
“I think the attitude was wanting to get on the field, so they took it upon themselves to get in shape so they could do so,” Mayer said.
But during a season is which “everything is different,” there was a lot of change to adapt to, she said.
“We have a long preseason normally, with at least eight games before the season even starts. This season we had two preseason games,” she said. “We also have a lot of freshmen this year; we lost eight seniors last year.”
The team is 2-2 thus far, pending a game Wednesday, April 28, against Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach.
“Our mentality is being grateful for being out there,” Mayer said. “The one thing that I’ve noticed this year is that these kids are so resilient. Especially for kids who are multiple-sport athletes, they are playing multiple games every week. They are asking a lot of their bodies and schedules and themselves. I’m really impressed with the resiliency I’ve seen and how they show up for each other.”
Upcoming soccer games
La Jolla High School boys
Home games at 750 Nautilus St.
• 10 a.m. May 1: away against Clairemont High School
• 6 p.m. May 4: home against Crawford High School
• 6 p.m. May 6: away against Serra High School
La Jolla High School girls
• 5:30 p.m. April 28: away against Coronado High School
• 6 p.m. April 30: home against Patrick Henry High School
• 6 p.m. May 5: home against Serra High School
• 6 p.m. May 7: away against San Diego High School
The Bishop’s School boys
Home games at 7607 La Jolla Blvd.
• 7 p.m. April 28: away against Orange Glen High School
• 4 p.m. April 30: home against Santa Fe Christian
• 6:30 p.m. May 7: away against Francis Parker School
• 6 p.m. May 12: away against La Jolla Country Day School
The Bishop’s School girls
• 6 p.m. April 28: away against Mission Bay High School
• 4 p.m. April 30: away against Santa Fe Christian
• 4 p.m. May 5: away against Escondido Charter High School
• 3:30 p.m. May 7: home against Francis Parker School
La Jolla Country Day School boys
Home games at 9490 Genesee Ave.
• 4 p.m. April 28: home against Santa Fe Christian
• 6 p.m. April 30: home against Francis Parker School
• 5 p.m. May 5: away against Orange Glen High School
• 6 p.m. May 12: home against The Bishop’s School
La Jolla Country Day School girls
• 3:15 p.m. April 28: away against Santa Fe Christian
• 6 p.m. April 30: away against Francis Parker School
• 6 p.m. May 7: home against Escondido Charter High School
• 3:30 p.m. May 12: away against The Bishop’s School ◆