Solano Community College women’s soccer alumni (from left) Megan O’Dwyer of Vacaville High, Karlie Mast of Napa High, Michelle Giron of Armijo High, Janelle Richards of Vacaville High and Tara Cooley of Dixon High pose at Wednesday’s signing party. All signed national letters-of-intent to play for four-year schools except O’Dywer, who will attend but not play for Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. Submitted photo
July 12, 2013 11:09 pm • ANDY WILCOX
Girls soccer players from different programs in the competitive Monticello Empire League often find themselves on the same Solano Community College team after high school, putting past rivalries behind and jelling into winners.
Napa High School graduate Karlie Mast and Armijo product Michelle Giron were two such players. As Solano freshmen in the fall of 2011 — shoring up the defense at left outside back and right outside back, respectively — they helped the Falcons extend their five-year Bay Valley Conference unbeaten streak to 56 games. Last fall, their Falcons came up just short of a sixth straight BVC crown.
Mast and Giron not only bonded as teammates at Solano but became best friends — so much that they didn’t want to stop being teammates after their sophomore seasons.
They got their wish when they were offered scholarships to continue their soccer careers at Northwest Christian University, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school in Eugene, Ore.
They signed their national letters-of-intent on Wednesday in the Solano gym lobby.
“I’m really excited to go to the same school as Michelle and play with her again. I met her at Solano and we got really close,” said Mast, adding that they plan to room together at Northwest Christian. “We both signed to go there because it’s closer to home, and having someone you know at the same school makes it more comfortable.”
They visited the school, which is just across 11th Avenue from the University of Oregon, for two days in February. They enjoyed everything about it, except the weather.
“We trained with the team and we got to room with one of the girls who wasn’t training because she’d gotten injured during the season. She showed us the layout of everything and it was really cool,” Mast recalled. “It was really rainy, though. I’m hoping it isn’t too rainy when we’re there. But Oregon is really beautiful. I went up to Portland when I was younger in high school for a summer tournament and I really loved it.”
Two other Solano players also signed to play for four-year schools on Wednesday — Vacaville High graduate Janelle Richards with Cal State San Bernardino’s NCAA Division II program, and Dixon High product Tara Cooley with Nyack College’s NAIA program in New York. Teammate Megan O’Dwyer of Vacaville High, a Scholar Academic All-American, is moving on to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo for academics only.
Mast is the third Napa High graduate in as many years to sign with a four-year school out of Solano, following 2012 signee Sandy Garcia, who helped Nyack to a 9-9-2 record as a junior last fall, and Natalie Guerrieri, who played in all 20 games as a senior at Biola last season. Garcia was part of a seven-player Solano signing group last year that also included Trinity Prep product Barbara Bakh, who will return for her junior season at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. this fall.
Mast, whose two varsity teams at Napa High won MEL titles, is headed to Northwest Christian at an exciting time for the program. Head coach Brett Bentley not only guided the Beacons to their best record ever (7-8-2) last year, but also to an overtime victory over the No. 1-ranked NAIA team in the country, Concordia of Portland, Ore. — all with only one senior.
Northwest Christian wasn’t the only school Mast seriously considered. She visited Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., during spring break because her brother, 2008 Napa High grad Donald “D.R.” Mast, and his wife were living there after serving in the Air Force. But it wasn’t for her.
“The coach randomly called me and invited me down for a visit. But they play a different style of soccer. It was much slower to me. I played in a little tournament they had and I didn’t click with the team whatsoever,” she said. “I totally took a step back and said ‘I need to find a school where I can actually get along with people.’ That was Northwest Christian.”
Being closer to parents Jeff and Patti Mast and younger brother Ian, who played freshman football at Vintage last year, was important for Mast.
With virtually the whole Beacons team returning, it could be tough for newcomers to break into the line-up. But Mast feels confident she and Giron will see playing time right away.
“They have a lot of midfielders and forwards, but their back line really was not strong last year. I could clearly see that when I played with them,” Mast said. “So it means me and Michelle are going to be playing this year.”
Mast played forward for Napa High and had six goals as a senior, including two in a 4-1 playoff win over perennially strong Franklin-Elk Grove. But she played defensive positions for her club team, and that’s where Solano used her — as a freshman outside back and a sophomore defensive midfielder. With her strong leg, however, she still managed two score two goals in each college season — and add two assists as a freshman and three assists last year.
“Karlie is a strong athlete and has a good work rate,” Solano head coach Jeff Cardinal said. “She also has very high percentages offensively and defensively. She plays both sides of the ball well. We will miss Karlie’s good attitude, her respect for the team and coaches, her consistent work ethic at training and during games, and the fact that she is a team player.”
Mast said she actually enjoyed the move to defense at Solano.
“I learned a lot about playing soccer at Solano. The coaching staff is really good and they run a system where even playing in the back, I still had opportunities on goal,” she said. “I was able to take the ball up the field and score. I would push up in the attack and someone would drop the ball back to me and I could shoot. I will most likely be a defender (at Northwest Christian), or sometimes get pulled up into the center mid. I could tell their attacking players were really strong. But I’m most comfortable in the back, so it works out great for me.”
Mast plans to major in exercise science.
“My ultimate goal is to be a PA, a physician assistant,” she said. “When I get my degree, I’m going to start applying to programs to get in and then I’ll go back to school. I was going to be a biology major but it’s a three-year program there. I wanted to get out in two years, so I switched majors.”
Heading into her seventh year as a student-athlete, Mast said she still enjoys the balance soccer gives her in life.
“My favorite thing about soccer is that when I’m on the field, that’s the only thing I’m concentrating on, not anything else that’s going on in my life. It’s kind of a break from everything else, and you get to have fun doing what you love,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to stay fit, too.”