Five years ago, Great Oak High School fielded its first girls’ field hockey team about two weeks after the first tryouts began. Boosters scrambled to cobble together funds for the school club program’s first tournament a few days later, borrowing goalie equipment from nearby Fallbrook High School, wearing T-shirts as uniforms and trying to figure out what exactly was happening on the field during those first games.
Today, there are three varsity teams in Temecula and more may be on the way. Field hockey, which is a big girls sport in the CIF’s San Diego County Section, only has three teams in Riverside County in the CIF Southern Section, which also covers Orange and Los Angeles counties.
For Temecula Valley and Great Oak high schools, it means the teams will travel to Orange County in order to compete in the Sunset League. Chaparral, which started its program last year, will compete this year as an independent team.
All of the teams began playing scrimmages and nonleague games this past week.
Great Oak Field Hockey
Second-year head coach Katie Gerfen is looking to improve on the team’s 7-10 record from a year ago.
“Great Oak field hockey is off to a good start,” Gerfen said. “We have a quality group of girls who are looking to pursue goals both on and off the field. The team is coming together very nicely and having each others back for the greater good. We are looking to be a stronger ball carrying team offensively and compacting the field on defense.”
Gerfen said that the offseason was a good one for the Wolfpack, with players participating in other sports and some choosing to focus on field hockey.
“During the offseason, student-athletes have been gaining creativity in other sports which will certainly benefit us this season,” Gerfen said. “A good chunk of our student-athletes who did not play another sport chose to do extra training/conditioning to help become mentally and physically tougher in preparation for this season.”
Gerfen singled out senior midfield and back Abbey Savin as a key player on the team.
“Abbey brings a huge presence on the field to set the tone at a high level,” she said. “Her competitive nature is contagious, and I look forward to watching her take charge on and off the field this season.”
Gerfen said another senior midfield and back, Marianna Dayos, will also be the key to the Wolfpack successes this year.
“Marianna is more of a silent leader on the field, who controls where the ball goes,” she said. “She has great vision of the field to keep possession dangerous during transition. Marianna will come up with many 50/50 balls with aggressive play. She reads the game so well and places herself in great position on the field.”
Gerfen also said Ava Skupnik is a vocal leader on the team and is a defensive stopper.
“She makes everyone seem a part of the team,” she said. “She returns with being the Southern Sunset League Defensive Player of the year. She directs those around her to get on the same page on defense in our press.”
Gerfen said Lilly DeHaven, Maddison Gonzales and Suzanna Ko will also make an impact this season.
Temecula Valley Field Hockey
Michael Alawneh takes over for last year’s head coach Tiffany Huisman to lead the Golden Bears this season.
He is hoping to inspire the team to improve upon last season’s 13-6 season as the team begins play in the Sunset League for the first time.
“Welcome to the season of many firsts,” Alawneh said. “We are the new kids on the block. Let us make our future now.”
Alawneh said Skylar Richards, a senior forward and midfielder, is a leader on the team.
“Co-team captain Skylar Richards is the consummate professional,” he said. “A true leader amongst her peers and a coach’s best friend on the field.”
Alawneh said senior forward and striker Randi Johnson is a fierce competitor.
“She gives 100% of the time on the field,” he said. “She elevates the level of every teammate on the field.”
Junior Kaitlyn Christie is a midfield and striker and a top athlete for the Golden Bears, Alawneh said.
“Need a powerful hit to clear an area, she’s your girl,” he said. “A complete package, and she does it all with a smile.”
Alawneh said this season features the team’s first senior class, supported by talented juniors.
Aaliyah Alawneh, Emma Hilbig and Nadia Gonzalez are returning seniors, and Alyssa Aldaco, Brenna Dail and Kylee Host all return as juniors.
Notable sophomores include Brooke Foster and Talissa Nguyen.
Chaparral High School Field Hockey
Pumas head coach Noel Trout returns to lead the team in its second season, fielding only a varsity program this year, after recording a 4-6 record in 2018.
“We had a number of the girls continue to train for field hockey specifically all offseason so that should help us improve this season,” Trout said. “Many of the girls cross-train with lacrosse as well. We have 12 new players this year with eight being freshmen.
“We will be pretty athletic, but only half the team now has experience. That said, the girls are competitive and focused on getting better every game,” he said.
Leading the Pumas this year, according to Trout will be Analise Wilson.
“Analise has played just about every sport at the high school level,” Trout said. “She is very athletic with great hand-eye coordination and field awareness which helps her from the midfield position. She is a senior and returning captain.”
Karsen Trout is the returning defensive captain for the Pumas.
“She leads the defense which held five of our opponents to three or fewer goals,” Trout said. “Karsen is a smart athlete on the field and communicates well. She cross-trains with Puma lacrosse.”
Trout said Caitlynn Alarid is the returning attack captain.
“She has field instincts that seem to put her in position to make plays everywhere,” Trout said. “She plays great defense and is looking forward to scoring many goals this season. Caitlynn is also a lacrosse player.”
Trout listed Mary Handler, Niaomi Foronda, Laylah Higinio, Citlali Loza, Isabella Pagliei and Alondra Flores as returners who will make an impact again this season.
“Their dedication to the new sport on campus points to a great future for Puma field hockey,” Trout said.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.