CIF-Metro Conference embraces coed atmosphere
Roller hockey is classified as a coed sport within the Sweetwater Union High School District.
While not every team in the 17-member CIF-Metro Conference has a female student-athlete on its roster, the nine Sweetwater district clubs certainly have embraced the sport’s coed nature.
Bonita Vista High School actually has more girls (eight) than boys (seven) on its roster this season. Add two female managers and that’s a total of 10 girls.
“There’s definitely a different vibe now on the team with more girls participating,” longtime BVHS coach Keith Quigley explained. “Back in the day, I’d only have a couple girls on the team, if that. The last few years or more, I’ve actually had more girls than boys on the Barons team.”
In fact, this season’s Bonita Vista roster features two female goaltenders: junior Naya Romero – a two-year veteran – and sophomore rookie Ashley Massarene.
Romero, who has a background in girls field hockey, said she was drawn to inline hockey because of its physical attributes.
“I like being aggressive,” she said. “It’s also so challenging; there are so many skills you have to be good at to be decent.”
“It’s very competitive,” explained Massarene, who has no prior high school sports experience. “My dad brought it up to me that there was a roller hockey team at school. I like hockey; I’m a big (Chicago) Blackhawks fan. I didn’t know there would be so many girls on the team. I thought it’d be more of a male sport. I wasn’t used to girls playing hockey.”
Quigley, who has coached the Barons since their inception in 1998 as a club team, said girls definitely bring a different dynamic to the game.
“They seem to balance things out,” he explained. “I do like how the girls seem to be focused on other aspects of the game besides winning and losing.”
Interestingly, the coed nature seems to have fostered a unique sense of unity and school spirit on teams with females on their rosters.
“It seems the boys have no problem at all with there being so many girls on the team,” Quigley said. “You have to remember these are high school kids, and at that age, of course, boys and girls like to hang out. It makes the sport of roller hockey such a unique sport being coed.”
Quigley is the first to admit that coaching coed teams has helped broaden his own coaching horizons.
“I feel this has definitely strengthened me as a coach, whether it’s hockey, lacrosse or any other sport,” he said. “Just learning how to deal with, manage, coach and supervise both girls and boys I think makes me more well-rounded.”
Eastlake High School coach Ron Cole concurs.
“There are very few sports where boys and girls compete together,” Cole said. “This is one which definitely brings an element to the club that’s good for team spirit, team camaraderie and good for hockey in general.
“It’s definitely brought a challenge to my coaching career, but one that I’m learning from and I’m proud to do that.”
The Titans have two girls on their roster this season, including sophomore goaltender Erin Gregory.
“It’s a new experience,” said Gregory, who won her first three starts. “It’s fun. Even though you’re a girl, the guys don’t care.”
Hilltop High School has three girls on its roster. Freshman Kristen Lambertson, in fact, scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win over rival Chula Vista High School heading into the winter break.
“They bring a whole new style to the game,” Hilltop coach George Godinez explained. “I feel girls have more enthusiasm and are more eager to learn.”
If there was one player who changed the perception of girls playing alongside boys in inline hockey, it was Bonita Vista alumna Kelly Nash, who went on to win two NCAA championships (2009 and 2011) with the University of Wisconsin’s women’s ice hockey team and now serves as an assistant coach with the University of Vermont’s women’s ice hockey program.
“It was so awesome to see this girl compete with the boys and often be a more skilled player than many of the boys back in the day,” Quigley recalled. “She was a true team player and easy to coach. She was a very well-rounded player. If she wasn’t playing roller hockey, she was playing ice hockey somewhere.
“I really feel Kelly opened up the door for many female athletes to come out and try the sport of roller hockey after seeing how successful she’d been. She quickly gained respect of the male players as soon as they saw her talent out on the rink. I think she also opened the eyes of many coaches, realizing that there can be talented female hockey players, too.”
Said Romero: “Girls can do everything guys can do.”
– Phillip Brents
Photo: The Bonita Vista High School coed roller hockey team features eight female players – the most of any club in the 17-member CIF-Metro Conference – and two female managers on its roster this season. Photo/Phillip Brents