ESPN ranks Poppoff among state’s top players
by Bob Brownne/Tracy Press
Aug 13, 2010 | 3831 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alexis Poppoff in a San Joaquin Athletic Association game against Lincoln High in April.
Tracy Press file photo
Alexis Poppoff in a San Joaquin Athletic Association game against Lincoln High in April. Tracy Press file photo
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Alexis Poppoff will go into the spring soccer season with another top honor on her high school résumé.

ESPN Rise, which covers high school sports around the U.S., has named the Tracy High senior to its California Spring Season High School All-State Soccer team for 2010.

It’s an 11-member team that includes eight recent graduates who will go on to play NCAA soccer this year. Poppoff is one of three players selected based on their performance during their junior years this past spring.

Poppoff was named overall Most Valuable Player for the San Joaquin Athletic Association, the third year in a row she has made the SJAA all-league list. She was excited to be named to the ESPN list because, she said, it takes that type of honor a few steps further.

“Out of all of the amazing players in the state, it was good to know that I was picked,” she said.

In addition to the Tracy High team, Poppoff plays year-round with the California Cougars, led by Mark Kusanovich, head coach at St. Mary’s High of Stockton, and his son Matt.

Poppoff said having the Kusanoviches as coaches, in addition to Tracy High coaches Joe and Nate Perry, has given her the benefit of varied coaching styles, and the competition the Cougars face is similar to playoff competition for high school teams. She plays forward for both teams.

“You have to have a lot of confidence, and you have to have a lot of determination,” she said

While she’s in a place on the field where she gets recognition for her contributions, she emphasized that the forward holds down just one role in a team effort.

“It’s really your team that makes you look good in that position,” she said.

Tracy High girls soccer coach Joe Perry said Poppoff also carries a high grade-point average, which make her a top prospect for NCAA Division I schools.

Poppoff said she has made a verbal commitment to attend U.C. Davis in fall 2011 on an athletic scholarship. High school seniors in her sport will be able to sign their official letters of intent starting Feb. 2.

Poppoff was the scoring leader for the Bulldog soccer team and the SJAA during the spring 2010 season. Tracy shared the league title with Lodi and made it deeper into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs than any other Tracy High girls soccer team, before falling to St. Mary’s in the second round of playoffs.

Three of the 11 players on the ESPN Rise California team are from St. Mary’s, including two, Megan Mata and Marena O’Leary, who are Poppoff’s teammates on the Cougars team, which won three tournaments this summer and is the fifth-ranked U18 team in Northern California on GotSoccer.com. The other, Kim Mata, is the Rams’ goalkeeper and shut out every team St. Mary’s faced except three: Tracy, Tri-City Athletic League rival Tokay and Sac-Joaquin Section champion St. Francis.

Mark Kusanovich, coaching director for the Cougars and the Rams’ head coach, said Poppoff was one of 11 girls from around Northern California whom he nominated.

“We had a lot of good players who were nominated but didn’t get selected,” he said. “The quality of players is unbelievable right now, so the competition is tough.”

He added that all of them would be obvious choices for all-league teams, and all are NCAA Division I prospects. The ESPN awards narrow down that field even further, to include players who will likely start as freshmen at their respective colleges. That includes Kim Mata at Sacramento State and Erin Rost, goalkeeper for St. Francis, who will go to the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Kusanovich, who was also on the selection panel, said any close calls for the final 11 typically go to the senior instead of a junior, but Poppoff still was the top choice among forwards.

“Her level of play is college level already, so it doesn’t matter if she’s a senior or a junior.”

Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or brownne@tracypress.com.

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