By Gregory Ball
ContributorLa Jolla Country Day senior Dennis Roth was a standout basketball and soccer player growing up in Rancho Bernardo, but when he reached high school, he knew he had to make a choice between the two sports because they are both played during the winter season.
Roth chose basketball and was a key member of Country Day’s team for three seasons, and as a senior has done an about-face and moved back over to the soccer field.
So far, the decision seems to have been a good one. Roth, in his first season with the Torreys’ boys’ soccer team, has scored six goals in the squad’s first five games.
“I was sort of thinking I was going to play soccer, but it wasn’t really until (the first week in December) that I made my decision,” Roth said.
Roth is among Country Day’s most versatile athletes. He was a three-year varsity player on the Torreys’ basketball team as a point guard and shooting guard, and last winter, his 11.3 points per game average was second on the team as he helped the Torreys to a 14-13 record. He averaged 9.4 points per game as a sophomore, and in his freshman campaign, he scored 6.1 points per game.
He is also an accomplished runner on Country Day’s track and cross country teams. Just last month, he turned in a big performance at the CIF state cross country meet in Fresno, as he helped the Torreys to an eighth-place finish in the Division IV race. He finished 44th and was Country Day’s second runner across the finish line, and his time of 16 minutes, 19 seconds was the third fastest time in school history at the state meet.
His aspirations as a runner were a big part of Roth’s decision to play soccer rather than basketball. He hopes to run cross country and compete in the track distance events in college, and figured that the running required in soccer would naturally benefit him.
Roth also said that many of his Country Day cross country teammates play soccer, and he plans to train with them regularly after practices.
“I thought I might have a little more freedom with the soccer schedule as opposed to the basketball schedule,” he said. “I thought maybe I could fit in extra workouts and that I could just fit in soccer a little better.”
Roth said the adjustment to playing soccer again wasn’t as difficult as he had expected, although he admits he is still getting used to the timing of certain plays, especially headers.
Country Day boys’ soccer coach Jerry Fleischhacker said that in previous years, he has had athletes join his team from other sports late in their high school careers, and many of them have been basketball players.
“All these kids were elite top-notch soccer players in middle school,” said Fleischhacker, who predicted that Roth would become even more of a scoring threat as he gets more comfortable on the soccer field. “This is not that unusual — many of these kids play all the sports and have to make a very tough choice in high school. It’s pretty rare that they have to make the choice, because in most states soccer is a fall sport.”
Still, Fleischhacker knows he is lucky that Roth decided he wanted to give soccer another try as a senior.
“He was a great player in club soccer up through junior high, so it’s not like he has never played before,” Fleischhacker said. “But he hadn’t played in four years, except for the occasional pickup game.
“I feel fortunate to have him.”
Gregory Ball covers sports for La Jolla Light. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.