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California Area junior at home with transitions, challenges

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Danielle Koehler is one of three girls and a co-captain on the California Area High School soccer team.
Danielle Koehler is one of three girls and a co-captain on the California Area High School soccer team.
Danille Koehler plays four varsity sports — soccer, tennis, basketball and track and field — at California Area High School and maintains a 3.6 grade average.
Danille Koehler plays four varsity sports — soccer, tennis, basketball and track and field — at California Area High School and maintains a 3.6 grade average.

California Area High School junior Danielle Koehler isn't afraid of a challenge, whether it's going from playing on an all-girls CUP soccer team to making the transition to coed high school soccer, or going from in-school to home-school back to in-school academic environments.

“At times school and sports together can be overwhelming,” noted Koehler, who plays soccer and tennis in the same fall academic season, basketball in the winter and track in the spring.

After spending her freshman year in the high school, she opted for home-schooling as a sophomore.

“I wanted to see what it was like,” she said, chuckling that she discovered little difference in academic philosophies. “School is still school. I was in high school in ninth grade but home-schooled last year and I am back at California this year. Being in school for six hours of classes and being involved in after-school sports or other activities leaves little time for anything else. The big difference is that in being home-schooled I had classes for about three hours a day and that gave me more time to get everything done. Being home-schooled essentially everything is on a homework basis. I was able to participate in all the school activities but I missed the social aspects of school, so I am back in the classroom this year and there have been no problems re-adjusting to being in school again.”

Coed soccer, Koehler observed, by its very nature is more demanding, especially on the high school field (compared to her middle-school coed soccer experience).

“But it's still soccer, and it's fun,” she said. “I play all-girls soccer with my CUP team and playing soccer with and against the boys on the coed team and against boys teams or coed teams has made me a better player, since boys are generally faster, stronger, bigger, and more competitive.” (Koehler, incidentally, is one of three females on the Trojans roster, with senior striker Kailyn Clancy and junior defender Katharina Pankratz the others).

But Koehler doesn't back down, California Area soccer coach Scott Peterman said.

“Danielle plays center-mid, a position that combines offense and defense,” Peterman added. “She moves up offensively with the play and drops back to support the defense. Because of her position she is not really a scorer, but she is our top defensive player. As a sophomore I never took her out of the lineup. She is fast and physical and beats opponents to the ball. She tracks down passes, heads balls well, and generally wins 50/50 balls. She also distributes the ball well, putting her teammates in scoring position. She anticipates very well what opponents may do and is often in a good position to intercept passes. She knows when to apply pressure and when to back off.”

In a recent game Peterman moved Koehler from center-mid to sweeper, the last defender in front of the goalkeeper and he was not surprised at her strong game.

“We're still early in the year, but her season is going very well,” Peterman noted. “She is one of our leaders and one of our three co-captains (Devan Peterman and Hunter Watkins are California's other captains), which says much about her ability and desire. She is smart, committed and she makes no mistakes. On the field she is outspoken and challenges other players to work and play harder. Danielle has natural instinct on the field, doing things coaches cannot teach. She can see plays develop and plays ahead of the action. She kicks with either foot and she kicks far and accurately.”

Still, Koehler chuckled when recalling her first high school goal last year, against Beth-Center from her center-mid position.

“I play mostly midfield in soccer but I would like the opportunity to score some goals. Center-mid is an offensive and defensive position, and I have been playing defense longer and I am more defensive-minded than offensive-minded. When I scored the goal I just happened to be in the right position on our offensive end of the field.”

Playing four varsity sports, Koehler, who maintains a 3.6 grade point average and laughingly admits to getting “a little tired sometime,” knows how to direct the credit.

“At California we only have about 300 students in the school so there are more student/athletes playing two or more sports, sometime in the same season,” she said. “But we are fortunate in that our coaches are lenient regarding practice and/or game times. Coaches and teams have to share student/athletes to keep the programs growing and intact.”

After soccer and tennis in the fall, Koehler turns to basketball, where she plays guard for the Lady Trojans. Again, she'll find time to share her talents between basketball and the school musical. As a freshman she was a dancer and member of the chorus in the school's presentation of “The Music Man,” but did not participate last year.

“Not being involved with the musical last year I found that I missed the opportunity and interaction with everyone,” she said. “Musicals present a different challenge compared to sports, and I plan to become involved this year again.”

In her first season in tennis, as a sophomore last year, Koehler's friends on the team were the motivation for her to play.

“I thought it might be fun and definitely it was,” she said. As a sophomore she was a member of the Trojans No. 2 doubles team, which advanced to the second round at the section doubles tournament. This year finds her playing No. 3 singles, which she prefers.

“I like singles better,” she laughed. “My doubles partner and I did well last year, but I like to control everything on the court.”

Come springtime her six-hours classroom time will extend to the track where Koehler competes in the 300-meter hurdles, long jump, and 200 meters.

With designs on playing soccer in college and perhaps possibly coaching soccer, Koehler has expressed an interest in the University of Northern Florida to study marine biology.

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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