February 9, 2007

Lancers Rely on
Playmaker Najera

By John Philip Wyllie

As the girl’s high school soccer season winds down, the South Bay League has turned into a three-horse race between Marian Catholic, Southwest and Hilltop. Over the next two weeks, these teams will face each other and ultimately only one will remain standing. If the Hilltop Lancers emerge triumphant, it will be in no small measure due to the efforts of their skillful center midfielder, Andrea Najera.

“I started playing when I was in the fifth grade,” Najera said. “My older brother was already playing and I got involved first with after school sports and then with AYSO. Now, I play (club soccer) for the Pumas. I started playing on this team as a sophomore. I played first as a forward, but I wasn’t a starter (initially). I moved to the midfield last year and that is where I became a starter.” Najera blossomed in that role and this season she has taken on the added responsibility of being a team captain.

“Andrea’s touch on the ball is amazing,” said Lancers assistant coach, Christy Sherm-an. “And she has great vision in distributing the ball. She has the ability to dribble in and out of traffic and around her opponents. She’s not very boisterous on the field. She is more of a quiet leader and one that leads by example, but the other girls see how hard she works and how she carries herself on the field.” Some of it has no doubt rubbed off on them.

Najera does not rank among the team’s leading scorers, but that is not really her role. Instead she uses her ball skills, vision and smarts to direct the attack with her well-placed passes. She is content to sit back and let the others gain the glory that comes with scoring goals.

Najera feels she has benefited from the coaching of Rene Ortiz, a former San Diego Socker and the current coach of Mexico’s national indoor team.

“His background has been mostly with coaching guy’s teams, so he has showed us some new things and taught us a lot about positioning.” Under Ortiz, Najera thinks the Lancers can win the league title and advance into the upcoming CIF tournament.

“We are tied for first place right now. We just have to step it up and get a little more serious. I think we can definitely make it into the tournament. We haven’t advanced to the second round in quite a while, so that is our goal.”

Najera’s 2.9 G.P.A. will allow her to continue toward her academic goals in college next year. She would also like to continue playing soccer. While she has yet to receive any scholarship offers, a couple of junior college coaches have noticed her. Starting her college career at one of them might serve as a stepping stone to a four-year university down the road.

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