Energy on the field: La Jolla High girls soccer team heads to CIF playoffs

La Jolla High School Vikings (in black) work together to maintain possession of the ball during a recent soccer game.
(Stephanie Montion Marquez)

Top to bottom, from the strikers to the goalie and the players on the bench, every one of the athletes on the La Jolla High School girls varsity soccer team has one objective: to win as a team.

Looking to cap their most successful season in recent memory with a CIF championship, the Vikings are entering the San Diego Section playoffs this week with the No. 2 seed among Division III teams.

La Jolla, which won the City League title and was 15-1-3 overall, will open its playoff schedule at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at home against the winner of the Feb. 14 game between Hilltop and Valley Center.

“There is really good leadership and, I know it may sound cliche, but the team really likes each other,” said coach Austin Mobley. “There is a buy-in from player 1 through 20. They all feel connected and feel good in their roles. From the players that would be in a starring role to those that only get a few minutes per game, they all are there to help with what the team needs.”

Some of the team’s top strengths have been on defense and the center midfielders, which work with both the offense and defense.

“We’ve given up four goals in 19 games,” Mobley said. “That has been the foundation for our team, to defensively keep the ball out of the net. Our center midfield has also been the engine of our team.”

Vikings (in black) fight for the ball during a recent La Jolla High School soccer match.
(Stephanie Montion Marquez)

On the scoring side, most of the goals have come from Ruby Davis, Maya Hanley and Tahlia Zadeyan, who are “creative and dynamic, good passers and good finishers,” Mobley said.

Hanley, 18, has been playing since she was 3 and said soccer has been “a huge part of my life my whole life.” She joined the Vikings last year after moving to San Diego from Massachusetts.

“I literally don’t know what it’s like to not play soccer,” Hanley said. “It’s an outlet to get my energy out. Being cooped up in school and during [the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic], it was a chance to get out. With it being a team sport, you also form these friendships.”

La Jolla High players celebrate a goal.
(Stephanie Montion Marquez)

Joining the Vikings in her junior year “took some time to get used to, but our team chemistry and the positive attitude of the team made all the difference,” she said. “You’ll never see us argue on the field; we lift each other up.”

“Soccer is very much a team sport, and every goal scored and goal saved involves every person on the team,” Hanley added. “Everyone knows how important a good team bond is, and we all prioritize that going into every practice and every game.

“We’ve seen the opposing side of that; we’ve seen other teams struggle with that bond. From my standpoint, it’s all of us knowing that each person plays a role in everything we do. … It all adds to the energy on the field.”

Hanley said the team practices every day and the players spend time together after practices and games. “We see each other more than we see anyone else,” she said with a laugh.

The varsity team sometimes will turn out to cheer on the JV team from the sidelines.

Unlike past years, when the Vikings relied on a core group of players, everyone on the team has strengths to contribute, she said. “We have a lot of depth, so when there are players that are tired, we don’t have to worry about a weakness going onto the field when we sub someone in.”

As the team approaches the playoffs, it is employing an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. But it’s still working to improve. The Vikings made it to CIF last year but lost in the first round.

“We’re really hyped up” for the playoffs, Hanley said. “We don’t want to go into CIF overly cocky, but I’m confident we have a chance of winning. ... We have as good a chance as anyone to win it all.” ◆