Coed hockey remains core value in CIF-Metro Conference inline league
The Sweetwater Union High School District-sponsored CIF-Metro Conference owns the distinction as one of the state’s longest-running scholastic leagues under the same operating body.
The league is celebrating its 20th anniversary season in 2019-20 with 17 varsity teams. Its coed nature is perhaps one of its strongest selling points to student-athletes on campus.
Several teams, in fact, have more female than male participants, and female coaches are not only becoming more common, but finding success as well.
Caroline Talavera, who played coed roller hockey at Chula Vista High School, has been coaching in the league since 2014. This is her second year as head coach at San Ysidro High School, which has set a school record for wins this season.
“It’s a chance to try something different,” Talavera said of inline hockey’s coed appeal. “A lot of the girls sports are non-contact. It’s a women’s version of football. It’s about as full an experience as I would want a sport to be. The girls compete tough. It’s just not a guy thing.”
Bonita Vista High School, under the guidance of veteran head coach Keith Quigley, has led the conference in terms of female participation numbers over the past decade. The team is enjoying a revival season in 2019-20 with a cast that includes 12 girls and six boys.
“I’ve always believed that high school roller hockey is unique because it’s coed,” explained Quigley, who has coached the Barons since their inception in 1998. “One of my best players ever – Kelly Nash (a two-time NCAA women’s champion with the University of Wisconsin in 2009 and 2011) – was a female. I really enjoy it as a coach. It creates a fun vibe with a mix of male and female players.”
Bonita Vista senior Faith Sunga (pictured) ranks among the top goaltenders in the conference, regardless of gender.
Ironically she said her assignment between the pipes started out as a joke. However, she’s had the last laugh.
“I started last year as a junior and one of my friends, who was 6-foot-3, tried out and he became nauseous,” Sunga said. “Coach suggested I try it (the goaltender position) instead. After that first practice, with all the gear on, I fell in love with the game. I love stopping the puck.”
She’s done that a lot this season in helping backstop the Barons to an 11-3 record.
“I’m a competitive singer and dancer and my background in gymnastics has helped with my flexibility,” she explained. “I thought I played well last year and I’ve gotten better with more practice. I’m getting better at kicking my legs out to make saves with my skates and getting better with my glove as well.”
Southwest High School also has fielded a majority female core in recent years. This year’s Raiders team, which features four girls and three boys, is captained by Leilani Javier, a four-year starter on the squad who also plays high school girls lacrosse.
Javier said she decided to play roller hockey on an impulse, and is glad she did.
“It felt like a second family the moment I was here,” she said. “Playing coed allowed me to meet more people.
“Both roller hockey and girls lacrosse are similarly competitive. I don’t think males have an advantage; I see everyone as a player, as an equal. Women can do everything that most people think we can’t.”
Javier follows in a succession of female team captains.
“Every year I’ve looked up to a women who was captain,” she said. “Being surrounded by these women has been empowering.”
Now she has that role.
“This being my fourth year on the team I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “The goal I have is to make everyone feel like a family and have everyone included.”
Girls and boys.
— Phillip Brents
(March 4, 2020)