January 30, 2009
By John Philip Wyllie
Standing just about five feet tall sophomore Marissa Espino knows she is never going to intimidate anyone with her size. She also knows she doesn’t have to. Not with the terrific speed and skills she possesses. As a midfielder/forward for the (3-1-2) Hilltop Lancers, Espino has already scored a couple of key goals and looks to add many more before this season is complete.
“Marissa is a first year starter on varsity and our only natural left footer,” according to Mexican National Indoor Team and Hilltop High coach, Rene Ortiz. “She is very good with the ball and very skillful. While she still needs to polish some of those skills, she is a great prospect and I am looking forward to having her for a couple more years. Marissa is a key component to our offense.”
As it turns out, Espino has been honing those skills for a long time.
“I began playing when I was four. My parents first enrolled me in AYSO and I have been playing ever since,” she said.
Prior to that, her parents, aunts and uncles and even her grandparents played.
By the time she was 10, she was playing on a competitive traveling team and following the scholastic season she will again suit up for the La Jolla Nomads, one of the county’s elite teams.
“Soccer is my primary sport. In fact, now I focus only on soccer. I used to also play softball, but I stopped playing because I loved soccer so much. I just enjoy being on the team and having fun with the girls.”
Hilltop, winner of last year’s South Bay League title, has moved over to the tougher competition offered by the Mesa League. There, the Lancers will battle perennial champion Bonita Vista and always tough Eastlake for a league supremacy. At (3-1-2) the Lancers are off to a promising start.
“This year (winning the league banner) is going to be more of a challenge, but with the girls that we have I think we can beat most of those teams,” Espino said.
In the classroom she shines as brightly as she does on the pitch. So far this year she has produced nothing but A’s. When she is not training for soccer or studying she is devoting her time to tall flags.
While Espino was born in San Diego, her father hails from Mexico. Her Mexican heritage has naturally become a source of pride. Celebrating that heritage, a few years back she was involved in Ballet Folklorico. At this point however, she does most of her dancing with a soccer ball.