Roller hockey is listed as a coed sport within the CIF-Metro Conference and the 18-team conference’s nine South County teams have no shortage of female players on their rosters — and talented female hockey players at that.
Junior Jacky Ponce is inarguably the best female roller hockey player ever to don gloves and pick up a stick for the Eastlake Titans.
Chula Vista’s Lindsey Bull and Bonita Vista’s Miranda Peters, meanwhile, have developed into two of the top goaltenders — regardless of gender — on the rosters of local teams.
Then there’s Mar Vista’s Cindy Moeller, who deserves mention for her gritty play along the boards when battling for the puck against male opponents.
Honorable mention must go to Otay Ranch’s Andie LeDesma, an all-league cross country standout who has a chance to win a winter sports league championship on wheels with the Otay Ranch Mustangs.
“Allowing girls to play adds a new dynamic to our sport,” said Southwest coach Jerry Nestlerode, whose defending South Bay League champion Raiders have three girls on their roster this season.
“My mom passed away last month and she was an athlete, she played tennis in Pennsylvania. She was amazed that we had hockey in San Diego and was thrilled to find out that we allowed girls to play. When she played sports in the 1950s, girls weren’t allowed to play certain sports.”
Between the pipes
Bull, a senior, has been guarding the Spartan net for the last three seasons. She’s a three-sport student-athlete at CVHS, playing field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. She’s a defender in field hockey and an attacker in lacrosse (she will continue her career at San Diego State).
“I wanted to play a different position, so that’s why I chose hockey,” she said. “It’s really cool. I can watch the entire game in front of me. It’s a totally different perspective from anything else I’ve done.”
Bull has become quite good at what she does between the pipes, amassing more than 100 saves already this season. In fact, Bull helped guide the Spartans to their first victory of the 2012-13 season by turning aside all 15 shots she faced in recording a 3-0 shutout win over the Mar Vista Mariners in a South Bay League game on Jan. 16.
“I was nervous at the end, but I got it,” she gushed.
The win came after a couple of overtime losses earlier this season.
“She had a couple of marvelous saves — she does a lot of work for us, in fact, she does most of the work for us,” first-year Spartan head coach Matt Diaz said.
The win over Mar Vista doubled as the first-ever for Diaz. Nestlerode, the district’s roller hockey commissioner, presented him with the game puck initialed by all the CV players on the floor.
That puck now occupies a prominent spot on Diaz’s desk.
“It meant so much for Jerry to present me with the puck,” Diaz said. “He told me it took three years for him to get his first win and I got mine in my first year.”
Peters has been a fast learner as well in switching from the defensive position she played last season as a sophomore to donning goaltender mask and pads this season as a junior. She was instrumental in helping the Barons to their only win of the season thus far in a 9-3 non-league victory against Mar Vista on Dec. 20.
Nestlerode, who watched the game, termed Peters’ play “phenomenal.”
“I needed to get stronger and move faster,” Peters said in making the move to the net. “I was really nervous but I got into the mind-set of the game.”
Peters, who also plays field hockey, got her baptism under fire in a 19-2 Mesa League loss to Otay Ranch. The Mustangs fired 51 shots in her direction during the Dec. 4 game. Peters proved to be the heroine of the match with 32 saves to dazzle spectators.
Bonita Vista coach Keith Quigley said Peters continues to improve each week.
She lists roller hockey as her favorite sport.
“I’ve played it the longest,” she said.
One on one
Bull and Peters finally had a chance to square off against one another as part of a rare Saturday morning triple-header this past weekend at Castle Park High School.
The Barons-Spartans non-league match-up capped the trio of games played under unseasonably warm temperatures.
Bull got the better part of her counterpart as Chula Vista defeated a Bonita Vista team playing without substitutes by an 8-1 score. It was the Spartans’ second win in a span of three games.
Of note: four of the five players the Barons fielded for the game were female.
The Spartans had three girls on their side.
Bull was complementary of Peters at the other end of the playing court.
“It was great,” the CVHS netminder said. “She’s really good. As hot as it was out there, she kept it up.”
“It was really fun,” Peters said. “Normally it’s a guy in there for the other team, so there was more of a connection (with Bull).”
Leah Buchsbaum scored the lone BV goal in the game to bite into an early 3-0 Spartan lead. Appropriately, Buchsbaum exchanged high fives with a female teammate in celebration of her first-ever goal.
“We were all rooting for Leah and when she got that goal, we were all freaking out,” Peters said.
“It felt so great!” Buchsbaum exclaimed. “Carla (Altomare) passed me the puck and I felt confident (to take the shot) after so much practice.”
“There was a lot of pride out there today,” Quigley underscored. “Hot weather, no subs. I’m so excited for Leah.”
Buchsbaum later was assessed a two-minute penalty for tripping. “It was an accident,” she said apologetically.
Moeller has a goal and assist to her credit in Mar Vista’s 1-8 start.
“Cindy is a pleasure to coach,” MVHS bench boss Manny Buenrostro said after his team dropped an 11-2 non-league decision to Hilltop to face off Saturday’s triple-header. “She has the mental toughness of 10 grown men. She’ll take the body and leave the puck for her teammates.”
The Mariners’ lone win to date was in overtime against Chula Vista: 4-3 on Dec. 7. Saturday’s setback was the team’s seventh consecutive loss.
But that wouldn’t be apparent watching the Mariners on the playing court.
Of Mar Vista’s eight players, one is a senior, two are juniors and the rest are freshmen and sophomores.
“We’ve got a lot of potential,” Buenrostro said. “We have the dedication and heart you need to get better. I don’t ask for the best talent but the hardest-working players. Hockey is tough to master, but once you do, it’s a blast.”
Billy Warren led the Mariners with a goal and assist in Saturday’s game while teammate David Jacob scored once.
The match-up against the Lancers was the second in three days after Hilltop recorded a 12-1 non-league win on Jan. 17. The Lancers built 10-0 leads in both games before having shutout bids spoiled by Mar Vista.
Warren had the Mariners’ lone goal in the Jan. 17 game. Mar Vista fans erupted with as much energy as its players demonstrated on the rink.
“These players definitely have the passion,” Buenrostro said.
Moeller is the first in line.
Why has roller hockey, especially given its physical nature, attracted so many girls?
CV’s Diaz thinks he has an answer: the competitiveness.
“Most of the girls also play field hockey and lacrosse and when they find out about this sport, they come out. These three sports complement each other.”
Eastlake’s Sahar Aminzai has played the goaltender position in all three sports. In fact, she made her roller hockey debut in a game against Peters and the Barons, an 18-3 Titan victory.
“The speed is fast-paced in lacrosse but roller hockey is the fastest sport I’ve played so far, said Aminzai, who notched 81 saves and three shutouts during the 2012 fall field hockey campaign.
Chula Vista’s numerical advantage proved to be too much for Bonita Vista in last Saturday’s encounter as the Spartans added five unanswered goals to close out the game. Morgan Spangler picked up five points on a goal and four assists while Mikey Thompson scored four goals, Francisco Aguilera collected two goals and two assists and Nick Amezcua scored once.
Rounding out the BVHS roster were Avori Schenk and Hawk Anderson.
Chula Vista improved to 2-7; the Barons dropped to 1-7 overall.
George Godinez had a goal and seven assists in Hilltop’s Jan. 17 win over Mar Vista while Nick Tesner collected four goals and one assist, Andrew Tesner had three goals and one assist, Sebastian Ross had two goals and one assist and Alberto Perez had two goals.
Saturday’s victory was the fourth straight for the Lancers. Godinez racked up five goals and two assists while Andrew Tesner had three goals and two assists, Ross and Nick Tesner each had one goal and Richard Pol was credited with one assist.
The Tesners are brothers: Nick, a forward, is a senior while Andrew, a defenseman, is a freshman.
Andrew drew interest in the sport after his older brother began playing in youth leagues at Chula Vista RollerSkateLand.
“I can talk to him about all the things I’ve learned since I started playing,” Nick said.
“It’s a good time out there — he teaches me things and watches my back,” Andrew quipped.
Conversation with Jacky Ponce
This is Ponce’s third year playing roller hockey for the Eastlake Titans. Before her career is over, she’ll likely stand as one of the top females ever to don a uniform in the CIF-Metro Conference.
EHS coach Ron Cole already calls her the best female player ever to play for the Titans.
“Women take a different outlook on sports — they tend to play a sport with more finesse than muscle,” Cole said. “I appreciate, as cliche as it might sound, a woman’s view on a sport. Jacky knows exactly when finesse is needed and is often able to speak volumes with a soft voice.”
Ponce has lit up the scoreboard as a junior with nine goals and six assists in Eastlake’s 7-3 start.
“This year I’m more relaxed out there,” she said.
Ponce has been playing roller hockey since she was 12. She got her start in the sport through Keith Quigley’s PUCKidz youth development program.
Ponce has played girls lacrosse the last two seasons but doesn’t plan to play any sports in college.
“I’m having fun playing with my friends, my teammates,” she said.
Otay Ranch’s LeDesma is going for gold
Otay Ranch all-league cross country runner Andie LeDesma has traded in her running shoes for skates; she could be in line to win a winter sports league championship to go with a fall sports title.
LeDesma placed ninth overall at the 2012 Mesa League cross country finals as the Mustangs out-pointed chief challenger Bonita Vista 28-33.
“I wanted to try a new sport because I had been running since I was 5 and I wanted to try something new,” she said. “I was going to try either water polo or roller hockey and I thought that roller hockey had more to do with leg speed. I thought it would be more fun because it was more physical, and it was a coed sport.”
It helped that her boyfriend was on the Mustangs’ roller hockey team.
An aggressive runner on the cross country course, LeDesma has taken that same mind-set into roller hockey. Though she didn’t score in her first game, she did collect a goal in her second game and scored two goals in her third game.
“I was kind of shocked when I scored my first goal,” she admitted. “I’m progressing each day and I don’t feel as much of a burden to the team any more.”