Chace to be NorCal’s best

Former Balers standout Chace Miguel has taken her game to another level at Hartnell College.

When Chace Miguel graduated from San Benito High in June 2015, she had already made up her mind that she wasn’t going to continue her soccer career—much to the dismay of Hartell College women’s soccer coach Ivan Guerrero.

“When I first recruited her, she told me she was done with soccer,” Guerrero said.

Later that fall, when Guerrero was watching San Benito High to start recruiting another freshmen class, Miguel, who was the assistant coach of the Balers’ junior varsity team, approached Guerrero with a different tone.

“She told me she wanted to play again,” he said. “I was pretty happy with her decision.”

And with good reason. Miguel, who on Monday was named the Coast Conference Player of the Year along with earning All-NorCal First Team honors, finished the regular season with 23 goals and seven assists. Her goal output was good for fourth in the state and established a new single-season Hartnell record.

The Panthers earned the No. 16 seed in the NorCal playoffs and hosts No. 17 Foothill on Thursday at 2 p.m. It’s been a spectacular season for Miguel, the former Balers standout who made the switch to playing forward at Hartnell after spending her entire career as a midfielder. The transition wasn’t easy; however, in time Miguel developed into a potent scoring threat. For Miguel, the adjustment was tougher in terms of the mental aspect.

“I’ve always had a pass-first mentality, so it was a big change to go from that to a score-first mentality,” she said. “And because the team needed me to score, it was tough at first having all the pressure on you to make sure the team scores goals.”

As Miguel started to take charge as the season went along, Guerrero knew Miguel would have a special season.

“Chace had a hard time being a bit selfish,” he said. “I told her if she has a goal-scoring opportunity, she needs to look to score instead of making the pass because she is the better option. We needed her to have that killer mentality inside the box and not be afraid to miss.”

Miguel didn’t miss often—at least not when you judge it by soccer shooting percentage standards.

“If you’re scoring on 33 percent of your shots, any coach will take that,” Guerrero said. “And that’s what Chace was doing.”

Athletic, agile and fast, Miguel had to get used to the rigors of the college game after being a year away from the sport. Once Miguel overcame an injury her freshman season—which caused her to miss five games—Guerrero started to really coach up Miguel on the finer points of the game.

“It wasn’t so much about playing at Hartnell, but setting her up to play at the four-year level,” he said. “We’ve been demanding and strict to get her out of her comfort zone. Her skills alone will not get her playing time at the next level, but doing the little things will.”

With that, Miguel started to work on timing her runs, where to make her runs and defending as a forward. Off the field, Miguel continued to be diligent in the weight room and doing extra drills on her own.

“It’s been a good journey for her so far, especially this year,” Guerrero said.

When Guerrero told Miguel she was going to score 17 goals before the season started, she laughed. Realizing Guerrero was serious, Miguel had doubts at first that she could develop into the scoring option the team would need this season. But as time went on, Miguel started to put everything together.

Miguel had a hat trick in a win over Skyline three weeks ago, and her third tally was a downright beauty. Miguel was positioned just outside the 18-yard box when a defender hit her as she attempted to gain separation. Miguel held possession before unleashing a shot to the upper right corner of the goal, a laser of a shot that impressed Miguel herself.

“Right when I hit it, I knew it was going in,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, that was an amazing goal.’ That goal was probably the best I’ve scored in my whole life.”

Miguel credited Guerrero, assistant coach Ivan Campos and conditioning coach Hugo Gonzalez for helping her become one of the premier players in Northern California. Guerrero and Campos helped her with the mental and technical aspects of the game, while Gonzalez made sure Miguel would stay focused from a physical standpoint.

“Hugo made sure we were on our stuff all the time,” she said. “Whenever we had a bye week, he would really lay into us to make us stronger. I could feel the difference, just being stronger in games.”

Guerrero feels confident that Miguel will be playing at a four-year school next year. Miguel said she’s going to stay in California, as she’s not interested in heading out of state. Whatever happens, Miguel has already achieved her potential at the competitive community college level, having made an impressive transformation from a distributing midfielder to a goal-scoring forward.

With 23 goals, Chace Miguel has set a single-season Hartnell College record.

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