Christopher aims for higher level

Christopher's Vanessa Purnell dribbles upfield in a match against Gilroy. Photo by Robert Eliason.

After losing just two seniors off last year’s team, expectations are soaring for Christopher High, which has finished in third place in league in each of the last four years. 

“We’re hoping to break through (for a top three finish) this season,” Cougars coach Dani Hemeon said. “I could tell the players were jelling really well from the start of summer conditioning. We still have a lot to improve on, but we’ve got a good core group of players to help guide the team this season.”

Madison Moreno, a senior forward, said the ability to string together passes in rapid-fire fashion has been key to the team’s success. A four-year varsity player, Moreno is the team’s top goal scorer.

“We go from offense to defense with quick passing, and I’m usually the one who benefits from our team’s fast passing,” she said. “We don’t have individual players. This year our team is connecting more and our play is better than ever before.”

Moreno’s uncanny ability to get in the right position at the right time allows her to be in the most advantageous place on the field to score. Moreno chalks that up to her experience, as she’s been playing the sport since the seventh grade.

“A lot of playing the game is instinct,” she said. “I don’t have to think about where I have to run to get a pass because it’s been something I’ve been doing for six years. It’s all about repetition.”

Hemeon said Moreno has added a lot to the squad.

“Madison is a really crafty forward and is able to make space for herself,” Hemeon said. “She knows how to make her way through the circle, get open and her experience has been a big help.”

Julia Davis, a senior center midfielder, is another four-year varsity player whose talents are evident. 

“She’s pretty much the heart of our team and plays all sides of the ball,” Hemeon said. “She is great at distributing the ball and sets up a lot of our scoring opportunities.” 

Samantha Rabusin, a junior goalie, already has posted a couple of shutouts and continues to blossom in her role as the team’s last line of defense. 

“She’s grown so much in the last year, and it’s fun to watch,” Hemeon said. 

Jordan Anaya, a sophomore midfielder, possesses “incredible speed” and has a work ethic to match. Anaya is another player who sets up scoring chances for her teammates. 

“She’s a workhorse,” Hemeon said. 

Vanessa Purnell, a senior who is in her first year on the team, has made Hemeon one happy coach by electing to choose field hockey over volleyball, which she’s done in the past. 

“Vanessa does play club field hockey and I coach her in club, so I’m happy she’s playing for the high school team this year,” Hemeon said. “She has really improved our forward and midfield lines because of her speed. She can run past defenders and has the stick work rate to get by them as well. Our No. 1 strength is passing and the ability to maintain possession is something we focused a lot on in the off-season. We’re not a team that will dribble past you and beat you 1-on-1. Our passing has really helped us out at the start of the season.”

Moreno should take tremendous pride in how far she’s come. When Moreno first took up the sport in the seventh grade for the Infinity Sports field hockey club team, the experience was overwhelming. 

“I would cry after practices because I hated it so much,” she said. “That first week was hard because I didn’t know what field hockey was. But once I started to learn the game and the rules and figured out how to play, I started to love it.”

The Cougars have already beaten Lynbrook of Cupertino, the squad that knocked them out of the Central Coast Section playoffs last season. 

“It was kind of fun to rebound and show we’ve improved,” Hemeon said. 

Christopher also edged North Salinas 3-1 on Sept. 10, an important result considering North Salinas has had the Cougars’ number in the last couple of years. 

“It was a big confidence boost for the girls to beat them since they’ve consistently beaten us the past few years,” Hemeon said. “So far we’re looking good, and it’s an exciting time.”