Brien raises the bar for women’s soccer

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Brien pushes the ball down the field during her game against Bishop O’Dowd.

Day after day, week after week, varsity soccer co-captain and senior Ceci Brien prepares for the monotonous trek ahead of her. The hour-long drive to club soccer practice in Danville is not an unusual journey for her, in fact, it happens five days a week most of the year.

Though Brien’s hard work may have originally gone unnoticed, it has now paid off. Brien is a four-year varsity starter, two-year captain, and the second leading goalscorer in PHS soccer history. She won NCS Sophomore of the Year, was voted First Team All-League twice, and led the team to a league title and North Coast Section (NCS) finals appearance. Brien capped it all off by signing a national letter of intent to play Division I soccer at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) this November.

“The day I decided to go to commit to UCSB was probably the best day of my life,” Brien said. “It was such a big weight taken off my shoulders.”

For Brien, the recruitment process was not easy. Brien said that going to recruitment camps and doing her best to impress coaches took lots of time and effort. Further down the line when she began to contemplate her options, Brien began to visit the schools she could see herself attending. Despite making a verbal commitment to UCSB the winter of her junior year, Brien said she was on the later side of women’s soccer recruitment time.

“I was the sixth player recruited in my class for UCSB,” Brien said.

However, Brien said that her dedication to soccer has not come out of the blue. Brien has been playing soccer since she was three. Starting by playing in recreational leagues and moving up to more and more competitive leagues, she has had a passion for the game for a long time.

“I’ve been doing it for so long because I just love playing,” Brien said. “Soccer has been such a large part of my life for as long as I can remember.”

Brien said when she switched clubs from Bay Oaks to Mustangs in eighth grade, she began to take soccer more seriously. Some of her teammates play on the youth national team and her team has made the national semifinals in the past.

“Once I changed clubs, I realized I could actually take my game to the next level,” Brien said. “I could actually be really good and focus on [soccer].”

To many of Brien’s varsity teammates, it is her work ethic that separates her from the rest.

“She does a lot of extra training outside practices,” varsity soccer co-captain and senior Fiona Hunter said. “ She puts a lot into her health and fitness, she’s gotten a lot stronger on the ball, and she’s become a better leader.”

Brien’s leadership is one of her most important qualities, said varsity soccer player and sophomore Nina Goldberg.

“I have always looked up to her as a player and as a leader,” Goldberg said. “She is a great leader because she is always positive and knows exactly who needs to be picked up and how to do it.”

This season for varsity women’s soccer, Brien’s leadership and experience, as well as that of the other captains, will be crucial for them to win some big games.

“Castro Valley is our best opponent in league this year,” Brien said. “We play them on senior night and they are very good. I know some of the girls on the team which makes it even more personal.”

Last year the team had a league record of 5-4-1, according to MaxPreps. This year, the team is looking to have a better outcome, Brien said.

“Our goal this year is to win league. Last year, we fell short, but we’re so close to winning that we all think it is achievable this year,” said Brien.

However, the year did not start out as Brien planned. During the early weeks of practice, Brien sustained a foot injury that kept her out of play for the first several games of the season. Now that she has recovered, however, varsity soccer coach Dan Chubbock said Brien’s return is well-received.

“I know the team is going to be very excited to have her back on the field,” Chubbock said. “Ceci is a strong physical player who is technically sound. The team has definitely missed her.”

With the second half of the season still to come, Brien said she is ready to break the PHS goals record and lead the team to another league championship and NCS glory.