By John Philip Wyllie
Hilltop High senior Erica Hernandez barely had time to catch her breath as she tran-sitioned recently from field hockey to soccer. During the just completed field hockey season, Hernandez led the Lancers to a 12-5-2 record and a league championship. At sea-son’s end she was selected the Metro Player of the Year, but she only had a weekend to reflect upon her accomplishments. By Monday morning she had traded in her stick and skirt and was out on the pitch practicing her patented free kicks under the watchful eye of former San Diego Socker and current Mexican national indoor soccer coach, Rene Ortiz.
“Erica is one of our strongest girls and I like her physical presence on the field,” Ortiz said. “That will definitely help us when we play the more physical teams. I love her cross and she took most of our penalty kicks last year. Erica is also very reliable, coachable and responsible. She’s always smiling and having fun out here.”
Ortiz didn’t have to worry about Hernandez’s conditioning. She was already fit from having played field hockey. While the games have several similarities there are also some significant differences.
“I think they are completely different,” Hernandez said. “They require a different type of running. Field hockey requires a lot of sprinting and soccer is all about endurance. It’s a tough transition, but I am used to it by now. I have been playing soccer since I was five or six and field hockey since ninth grade.”
Ortiz intends to make use her endurance, passing and play-making skills by placing her in the key role of a flank mid-fielder.
“I think we have a really great team this year. Our biggest competition should come from Mater Dei (which shared last year’s South Bay League championship with Hilltop). We are off to a good start,” Hernandez said.
While she has more years invested in soccer, she believes her future may lie in field hockey.
“I love soccer and I have been playing it for a really long time, but I have more fun playing field hockey. My coach has been talking about the possibility of my getting a (field hockey) scholarship. I definitely want to go on and play field hockey in college.”
Her solid “B” average will make that dream more attainable.
Her more immediate goal is to help her team repeat as South Bay League champions and then advance deeper into the CIF championships. She believes having Ortiz at the team’s helm can only help.
“He has brought some different techniques to our team. We are learning a lot from him,” she said.
Once the soccer season ends in March, Hernandez intends to pursue a new challenge. She plans to delve into track & field for the first time. When she graduates next June, she wants to do so as a three-letter athlete.