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Country Day’s Hawkins named one of nation’s soccer stars

La Jolla Country Day girls soccer Coach Dave Jenkins insists Ali Hawkins is so humble that just talking to her, you’d never assume she was an elite athlete. To his point, it was close to three weeks after the fact that Jenkins found out Hawkins had received a major national award, and he had to be told by a reporter.

“She’s just a regular kid,” Jenkins said.

Well, not exactly. Hawkins’ prowess on the soccer pitch is such that she is a standout not only for the Torreys, but also for a regional club team and the U.S. National Under-17 team. She recently accepted her highest honor yet when she was named to the “Parade Magazine” All-America team.

A junior forward, she was one of 35 girls high school players selected from across the country for the award. The team, which has been selected every season for nearly 50 years, appeared in the May 8 edition of the magazine, an insert into Sunday newspapers all over the United States.

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“It’s awesome,” Hawkins said. “It’s the biggest honor I could have hoped for at this stage of my soccer career.”

It’s certainly not the first award Hawkins has received, and likely won’t be the last. An All-Coastal League and All-CIF-San Diego Section Division IV player the last two years, she was also named the Coastal League Player of the Year last season, when she averaged about a goal per game.

She has been an integral part of the Torreys’ success, as the team has advanced to the section playoffs each of her three years at the school, advancing to the division quarterfinals during her freshman year and to the semifinals the past two seasons.

“Her soccer skills are pretty well documented,” Jenkins said. “She’s got great touch on the ball, has great speed and good size. She’s very aggressive and strikes the ball hard. She also has excellent (field) vision.”

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Hawkins has been a captain since she was a sophomore. Jenkins thought that might be a difficult role to put Hawkins in, asking her to serve as a leader to players one and two years older than her, but she stepped in seamlessly and has been successful in that role ever since.

“That says a lot about her when she had players who had been there before her looking up to her,” Jenkins said. “She’s an elite player. There are players who get to that level and become prima donnas. She’s not one of them. She realizes she has a gift but is very humble about it. She has always been a positive on the team, very uplifting and encouraging. Real champions lift the play of others around them, and she does that.”

Hawkins said being named to the Parade All-America team is an honor mostly because of the players she follows on the team. Many of them went on to be top-level college players or achieved success on the national and international levels.

“I was really very surprised,” she said. “The people that have been on that team are the people I have always looked up to.”

Hawkins’ biggest soccer hero is Michelle Akers, partly because of her famously strong work ethic, but also because of her style of play on the field.

“I like her aggressiveness,” Hawkins said. “My goal is to play like she did.”

Hawkins also plans to follow in the footsteps of another famous U.S. Soccer star, Mia Hamm. She has verbally committed to play her college soccer at the University of North Carolina, Hamm’s alma mater.

She can make it official in February, when women’s soccer players are first allowed to sign National Letters of Intent to play for college programs.

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“The players that have been through that program are some of the best in the world,” Hawkins said. “It’s really cool to have the chance to be a part of that. It will help me reach the goal of someday being on that top-level national team.”

Currently, she plays on the under-17 national team and with a San Diego Surf club team when she’s not acting as the field general for Country Day’s team. She hopes that some day she’ll get to play in the Olympics and in the World Cup.

“Getting this award makes you think something like that is possible,” Hawkins said.

As for her play at Country Day, Jenkins takes none of the credit, calling himself a beneficiary of all the hard work Hawkins and her coaches have put in at the club and national levels. He does, however, see Hawkins’ award as a major positive for the school and the Torreys’ program.

“What she has done, along with some of our other girls, has really put Country Day on the map with regard to girls soccer,” he said.