Gilroy field hockey rich in tradition

The Mustangs' Bella Domingues will play a key role in the team's success this season. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Gilroy High has a rich tradition in field hockey, having won a Central Coast Section playoff championship while finishing as the runner-up five times. Only 11 different teams have won a CCS field hockey title, proving the Mustangs are truly one of the sport’s blue bloods. Even though it’s been a long time since Gilroy last won the title—that came in 1983—it routinely wins league championships and ends up in the CCS playoff quarterfinals or semifinals every season.

This year should be no different. Even after graduating several key starters off last year’s squad, the Mustangs often reload rather than rebuild. Coach Adam Gemar said the team has plenty of talent, starting with seniors Olivia Bozzo, Bella Domingues, Athena Flores and Audrey Larson. Domingues plays center midfield, Flores mans the defense, Bozzo is in the midfield and Larson is at forward. Bozzo plays smart, has great vision and can work the ball in and out of traffic.

“Her vision is her No 1 asset,” Gemar said. “She’s an excellent passer and sees the field well.”

Larson utilizes a wide range of skills to make an impact. She can reverse on a dime, has a rocket for a shot and can turn and unleash a shot on a moment’s notice.

“Audrey is playing out of her mind right now, and has a knack for the goal,” Gemar said. “Before she might have lacked something in her game, but now she has put it all together to become a nice all-around player. She’s flicking balls on goals, delivering wicked shots and has a big bag of stuff she can pull out of her arsenal.”

Domingues provides a steady and reliable presence in the midfield, and junior Malia Mah and senior Sierra Serrano will also make an impact. Mah, a center midfielder, has elevated her game to the point where Gemar calls her “one of our go-to girls, along with Audrey, Bella and Athena.” Mah, who has made a verbal commitment to play softball at Cal Poly, loves the environment of the Gilroy field hockey team.

“The environment is awesome because of what Adam does,” she said. “He brings a positive attitude and we’re well coached. He taught me the basics and I just kept working on them to improve. What I enjoy most is all the positive vibes the girls bring to the team.”

Mah and Gemar have been impressed with the influx of young talent this season, as the team has three freshmen starters in midfielder Angela Castro, defender Ashley Boehm and forward Lily Lerma, who possesses tremendous speed and skill. Castro has strong game sense and Boehm plays a solid, methodical game and doesn’t make many mistakes. Gemar said Boehm “is a thinker and can get out of a lot of problems.”

“The freshmen have been hands down awesome,” Gemar said. “They all have different styles that contribute to the team. Three freshmen are more than I can ever remember starting on this team.”

Ameera Kleeder Barnes has earned the job as the starting goalie, and so far Gemar has been pleased with her performance, most notably in the Mustangs’ 2-1 loss to Mitty on Sept. 10.

“Every time I get a new goalie, I don’t know what to expect,” Gemar said. “But Ameera has been tested. Against Mitty she faced a plethora of shots and saved them all except one.”

Mah has three older sisters who graduated from Gilroy High, including Kaylana, who was a softball and field hockey standout at Gilroy before playing softball at Simpson University in Redding. All of Mah’s sisters are considerably older than her, and they proved to be role models for her growing up rather than just siblings.

“When I was little, I used to run the bleachers while they were playing games,” Malia said. “Kaylana basically taught me the game. My favorite memory growing up with them was just the environment I was brought up in. They were always working and trying their best no matter what sport they were playing.”

Malia has blazed her own trail among the sisters, taking all of the lessons she learned from them and combining that into her unique game. Mah, who plays club softball year-round, always gets excited for the summer because that’s when field hockey practice begins. Even though Mah makes club softball her No. 1 priority outside of the prep season, she makes it a point to focus her energies and improve once field hockey practice starts.

“This season I feel I’ve improved my stick handling and vision, just being able to look up the field and see the play develop or make a play happen,” she said. “My overall confidence is up as well.”

Said Gemar: “Malia is a stud. She became our center mid last year because we needed a little something extra in the middle, and she’s only gotten better since then.”

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