La Jolla High field hockey wants more

By Phil Dailey

The La Jolla field hockey team had its most successful season a year ago with a 13-win campaign, but this year, expectations are just as high as the Vikings look to take the next step in what 
will be the program’s seventh season.

In 2009, the Vikings squeaked into the CIF playoffs as the No. 12 seed (out of 12), but last year, thanks to a 5-1 record in conference play, LJHS was the No. 3 seed.

Though the Vikings didn’t live up to their seed, losing to Valley Center in the quarterfinals, they did continue to take another big leap.

This season, six seniors, six juniors and several sophomores are back to continue the progress.

The Vikings open the season today against San Dieguito, a showdown that will take place at LJHS at 3 p.m.

One big change for the 
Vikings this season is at the top. Gone is head coach Paula Conway, who left to become the manager of Olympic and Athletic Development for USA field hockey. Taking over the coaching duties for the Vikings are Bee Mittermiller and Lisa Tanner. Mittermiller (who will primarily coach the JV squad) has been a part of the program since inception. Tanner will coach the varsity and brings a resume that includes being a former field hockey coach at Lexington Christian Academy (Lexington, Mass.).

The past two weeks the team has held tryouts at Muirlands Middle School, and so far, Tanner likes what she has seen.

“I’m really impressed with the players and I expect them to win some games,” Tanner said. “Varsity has set the goal to win CIF this year. We know it’s going to be tough.”

Though the goal is always to win, this season the team is also looking to take that next step to compete with the top-tier field hockey schools in the county.

“It’s hard because we don’t have a feeder system like many of the other schools,” Mittermiller said.

But that seems to be changing with the recent success. The program is now getting more attention this season with more than 40 players trying for the varsity and JV teams.

Many of the players who are finding success in field hockey are athletes who are also successful in soccer and lacrosse — sports that in many ways are similar to field hockey.

One of those athletes is senior Aubrey Sloan, who tried field hockey as a freshman as a way to stay in shape lacrosse.

“Last year we had a lot of crucial seniors, who we have lost,” Sloan said. “Even because of that, we’re hoping that our team can come together.

“We hope we can make it to CIF and to win, but mostly we want to understand each other and work well together.”

Having a change in the coaching staff has been the biggest challenge so far for this group.

“It’s definitely different,” senior Ashlyn Warny said. “We’re not used to (Tanner) yet, but we’ll adjust.

“We want to try and make it farther in CIF of course,” she added.