Girls Sports Teams Are Riding a Wave
Prep’s girls teams had an outstanding year. In the fall, girls cross country won their second State title in a row, and this spring, the girls softball team made it to two rounds of CIF games. For the first time in a decade and a half, girls swimming won a Prep League championship. In the winter season, all three girls teams excelled. A first in 15 years, girls water polo earned a spot in CIF postseason. Girls basketball, a young and talented group, took the League title for the 5th consecutive year and went on to the semifinals. Girls soccer continued the spectacular success of the last two years, winning League undefeated, bringing home Prep’s first CIF SS Division III championship and scoring an unprecedented 164 goals.
Athletic Director Garrett Ohara ’84 says of the girls’ big year, “I can’t point to a single factor. We’ve done a lot of work to admit talented students—and success helps breed success. These programs are known for their achievements and outstanding coaches, so people want to be a part of that.”
Prep’s girls sports have been evolving, says Dean of Students Midge Kimble, in response to new emphases on campus and the benefits of being involved with a team. “Body image is a big deal in high school, and sports help teens be in the best shape they can be; it builds confidence. Girls are looking to sports to build leadership muscles, too. The team becomes their campus family—and that’s a forever thing.”
Soccer Coach Esteban Chavez, winner of this year’s All- CIF SS Division III Coach of the Year, says of the team, “They’re good at reading the game. Their tactical intellect is huge. I teach them; they understand and apply.”
But it’s not just talent that creates a winning program—it’s discipline and structure. Chavez holds practice six days a week, come what may. He says, “I know there are way more important things in life than soccer, but during the game, there is nothing more important than the game. So at practice and at games, I tell my players: This is the biggest thing in your life at this moment. Let’s give it everything.”
He sets an example by prioritizing soccer games and practice, with four kids of his own (including Justus ’23 and Silas ’21). His athletes hear from him, “Use your time wisely. We sacrifice for each other.”
Basketball coach Jayme Kiyomura Chan shares coaching duties with her cousin, Kevin Kiyomura (joint winners of the Star-News Coach of the Year award, as well as Prep’s coaching award named in memory of Scott Studenmund ’08). Jayme says that since they began coaching in 2012, they have been building the program through a culture of commitment. Chan keeps players in the loop on team and individual goals in weekly meetings and attributes their success to “team chemistry, unselfishness and working extremely hard towards a common goal.”
Being an athlete is important for teenagers, says Chan. “It builds confidence, keeps us healthy in mind and spirit, teaches humility, how to win and lose with grace and how to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Like Coach Chavez, the basketball coaches model dedication, says basketball player Alex Kyriakakis ’20. “Our success started with our coaches. The motivation they planted in us in the beginning of the season stayed with us until our final game. They lead by example through their work ethic, and it truly echoed within us.”
Shooting guard Sofia Gonzalez ’21 says her coaches were supportive of every athlete on the team, yet, “they emphasize that our strength is not just our athletic ability but the belief that we are a family.”
Soccer player Mika Celeste ’19 says the family feeling extends throughout the school. “We have a tight community, and you can feel everyone’s support and love shine through in our big moments.” With their crucial championship games scheduled for the same day, the basketball team sent a good luck video to the soccer team the night before.
For the athletes, the rise of women’s sports is both natural and reflective of the culture they are growing up in.
“Women’s teams have always been dominant,” says Gonzalez. “They are dedicated students who love sports and commit to give 100% to each. Soccer and basketball require sacrifices and commitments. That’s how we support each other—by understanding each other’s struggles. But it is worth it!”