Most every successful team, at every level, has one of more players who slide under the radar while doing the kind of things that only coaches can truly appreciate — getting the job done without fanfare, providing consistent performance day-in and day-out and serving as leaders on the field in an understated, yet invaluable manner.
For Martyn Hansford, head coach of Torrey Pines’ two-time defending CIF Open Division champion and currently No. 1-ranked girls’ soccer team, one such player is 5-foot-9 senior defender Ashley Serven. “Ashley’s one of our team captains and has got to be one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached,” says Hansford, in his sixth season at the helm of the Falcons. “She’s our best player in the air for sure and has worked hard to improve her speed and ball skills.”
With the recent start of the Avocado League West season the 5-foot-9 Serven took time to share her thoughts on Torrey Pines’ history of success, her own progress and what she hopes her team can accomplish in her final year.
Q: What’s it like going into virtually every game as a highly-ranked team with the proverbial “target on your back?”
Serven: Everyone knows the Torrey Pines name, so we are held to a higher standard and we can’t let that pressure affect how we play. We know we have to play our best every game because every team wants to beat us and be in our spot. Coach Hansford prepares us very well before each game so we feel confident going up against each team’s different system.
Q: Your team is the two-time defending the CIF Open Division Champions and ranked No. 1 with a 13-0-3 record already this season. In your opinion, what is the secret to the consistent type of success the Torrey Pines girls’ program has had?
Serven: This success comes from the bond we have on our team. Everyone gets along incredibly well and we are like family to each other on and off the field. We are all committed to the team’s success and everyone works hard both in season and off season to make sure we are at our best.
Q: What are your most compelling memories of those last two championships?
Serven: The most compelling memories from these championships is how each and every one of us were willing to fight for each other. We have each other’s backs and whenever we are on the field we make sure to back each other and put everything we have into it.
Q: Last Friday, in the second game of the Avocado West League season, Torrey Pines was tied, 1-1, by “neighborhood rival” Canyon Crest. What type of positives can your team draw from a result like that?
Serven: Canyon Crest was another reminder to us, how every team is going to put up a fight to knock us down. We aren’t happy with a tie, however, it isn’t a loss and we still remain undefeated. We plan to increase our intensity and continue to get better as we go into the second half of our season.
Q: How would you describe your role as a defender in Coach Hansford’s system?
Serven: Every defender plays an important role in our system. My primary role is to handle any aerial threat a team throws at us. Coach is constantly adjusting and refiguring our lineup according to the team we are playing and a game’s circumstances. Our defensive group communicates well making sure everyone is focused and organized with each play. The communication used on the field is a major contribution to our success.
Q: You’re in your third year on the varsity roster. How have you improved the most during that time and how did that improvement come about?
Serven: My communication and leadership skills have improved the most over the years. Coach Hansford has always stressed how important communication is on the field. As one of our captains this year it’s more important than ever to continue the communication and get the most out of each and every player.
Q: On this year’s Torrey Pines squad, which teammate would you consider the smartest, the funniest, the one with the most fashion sense and the person you would most want on the spot to take a PK with the CIF Championship on the line?
Serven: I wouldn’t consider one person in particular as the smartest, we are intelligent both in the classroom and on the field, but the one teammate that I would mention is Emma Pacelli. She is looking to be accepted into an engineering program at one of many highly-ranked colleges. The funniest teammate on the squad would have to be Laura Walton because she always keeps the team’s spirits high and can bring a good laugh to our huddles.
The one with the most fashion sense I would say is Reese Billington. She always dresses her best on days we aren’t wearing our jerseys and even on game days when we do wear jerseys. The one person I would most want on the spot to take a PK with a CIF championship on the line would be sophomore Tatum Lenain. I would choose Tatum because she is our leading scorer and shows the most composure on the field.
Q: If you weren’t playing soccer, what other sport do you think you might be good at? What sport do you think would be most difficult for you?
Serven: If I didn’t play soccer, I would have been good at basketball because it was my second sport and I grew up playing it my whole life. My brother, Jeff, and sister Heather, both attended Torrey Pines and played for the varsity basketball teams, so I know basketball almost as well as soccer.
The sport that would be most difficult for me is softball because I lack the good hand-eye coordination that’s essential when batting. I played when I was little and tended to strike out a lot.
Q: What has been your favorite class at Torrey Pines?
Serven: My favorite class would have to be the pre-calculus honors math class I’m taking this year. Mr. Preske, my math teacher, makes the class more enjoyable with the humorous jokes and stories he shares with the class.
Q: What is something your friends and teammates would be surprised to know about you?
Serven: One thing my teammates would be surprised to know about me is I have never broken a bone despite the many injuries I’ve had.
Q: What plans do you have after graduating from Torrey Pines in June?
Serven: I plan to attend college and might like to continue playing soccer.
Q: In your ideal scenario, describe the rest of the 2017-18 soccer season.
Serven: In the ideal scenario, the rest of the 2017-18 season would be to go undefeated in league and win the league championship again, be three-peat CIF Open Division Champs, and hopefully go on to win State since we lost in quarterfinals last year.