Global goal: La Jolla girls soccer team looks to make an impact this summer in Italy

The girls on the La Jolla Impact G2008 Blue team and coach Brian McManus are preparing for summer competition in Italy.
(John Kehrli)

The Impact G2008 Blue team will play against four Italian teams from June 18 to July 2.


Aiming to represent their community on European soccer fields, the La Jolla Impact G2008 Blue team has kicked off training and fundraising.

The 17 girls on the team, part of the competitive division of the La Jolla Youth Soccer League, are preparing for a rare opportunity to play against four Italian teams from June 18 to July 2 in Milan, Bergamo, Verona and Turin, Italy.

Coach Brian McManus set up the competition, during which the La Jolla team will take on the female youth organizations of four professional Italian soccer clubs.

McManus, who coached soccer at UC San Diego for 31 seasons and now coaches two teams for Impact and serves as its technical director, became the G2008 Blue team coach over two years ago when the girls were 12 (2008 refers to the birth year of the team’s oldest players).

McManus said the girls, who play in the SoCal Soccer League, finished first and undefeated in the San Diego National Premiere League bracket for the 2022 season.

He said he’s wanted to take the team abroad for a while. The girls are 14 now, “a great age for traveling,” he said. “And it’s great for kids to travel and see something outside the United States.”

Kate Kehrli, a La Jolla resident who plays right wing on the team and is a freshman at Francis Parker School in San Diego, said she’s very excited about the trip and the competition.

“It’s going to be a really good … bonding experience for the team, but it’s also going to help us grow as players playing against people we’ve never played before,” she said.

Tegan Grzyb, a striker on the team who is a freshman at Mission Bay High School in Pacific Beach, also expressed excitement.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “I get to do my favorite thing with some of my favorite people. It’s going to be really fun.”

The trip will be the girls’ first international competition. McManus said he hopes to see them grow both athletically and culturally as they adjust to different playing styles and Italian norms.

“The girls are going to be playing against … different ways,” he said. “They’re going to be playing against players [who] train five days a week, playing weekends.”

The girls also will “need to get used to having dinner not at 5 o’clock at night but [much later],” he said.

In addition, games will begin later than they do in the United States.

But, he said, the girls “love the game. They’ll compete very well over there.”

McManus said the La Jolla team has ramped up practices to three times weekly, integrating more fitness work to try to ensure the girls are competitive in Europe.

“The girls are really putting the time and putting extra work in,” he said.

“It’s going to be a really good … bonding experience for the team, but it’s also going to help us grow as players playing against people we’ve never played before.”

— Kate Kehrli

Adapting to the Italian teams’ style and level of play will be a challenge, Tegan said. “We’ve never really experienced anything that we’re going to experience this summer.”

“The teams are going to be very physical,” Kate said. “I think it’s going to be really tough.”

The La Jolla girls will have an opportunity to meet with professional players on the Inter Milan team, “one of the biggest clubs in the world,” McManus said. They also will tour Inter Milan’s stadium and may watch the pros practice.

In addition to all the soccer, Tegan can’t wait for Italy itself. “It’s incredible and it’s going to be such a fun time to spend with my teammates,” she said. “We’re going to do really cool activities outside of soccer. It’s going to be awesome.”

She and Kate said they’re also looking forward to the food.

“The sightseeing will be incredible and it’s just going to be fun being in a new country and experiencing a new culture,” Kate said. “We’re really excited to be representing the community and representing La Jolla by going to Italy.”

“We wouldn’t have this experience without our coach,” Tegan said. She added that McManus has recognized the team’s hard work and “got us to this level. … It’s all thanks to how hard our coach has pushed us and gotten us here.”

The team is raising money to help pay for the trip. To donate, email La Jolla Youth Soccer Executive Director Heather Hilliard at or call (760) 458-7833. ◆