Skylar Herrera can see things happening on the field that other players her age don’t think to look for, and that high soccer IQ has helped the Long Beach Poly senior record two goals and two assists in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs this month.
“Aside from the skill and talent level, she also brings quite a bit of experience,” Poly coach Anthony Perez said. “She’s a smart player who has good vision, and she’s been playing the game a long time.”
Herrera has played with five different clubs at multiple levels, and will play in her second CIF semifinal today when Poly hosts Sunny Hills at Wilson High. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.
READ MORE about the matchup between the Jackrabbits and Lancers.
“I’m not surprised,” Herrera said of her team’s playoff success. Last month, Poly won its first playoff game in the last three seasons.
“I knew we were going into playoffs trying to prove a point that we’re the best team in the Moore League,” she said. “We didn’t get the results we wanted in league, so to come out hard in CIF is what we needed to do.”
Herrera was born and raised in Long Beach, where she went to Naples Elementary and Rogers Middle School. In third grade, she had to choose between dance and soccer.
“I didn’t like dressing up for dance and being all girlie,” Herrera said. “I liked getting dirty with soccer, so I picked that.”
As the youngest of four kids in an athletic family, Herrera put all she had into improving on the soccer field, and she quickly improved while playing for Beach FC, Cypress, Strikers, West Coast and now Slammers soccer club. Herrera got her first email from a college coach when she was in sixth grade.
“Ever since then I’ve just been pushing to get to that goal,” Herrera said.
Earlier this month, Herrera celebrated with her classmates while signing her National Letter Of Intent to Oregon State University. However, even with her athletic future already decided, she wanted to come back this year and play for Poly and coach Perez.
“I’ve known coach Perez for a really long time, and he worked with me at Cypress,” Herrera said. “I love how he coaches and I love him as a person. I wanted to play with him and my team one last time before I go to college.”
“She brings the right kind and right amount of attitude, in a good way,” Perez said of Herrera. “That competitive edge type of attitude.”
Perez had Herrera playing on the wing early in the season, and she scored an important goal in the comeback win at Wilson, but she told him to move her back to the middle where she plays at club.
“We have a good relationship, and I respect her thoughts, so we did it,” Perez said. “Since then she’s been proven right, and I like her there. She’s able to implement any action. She’s very good at being greedy when she should, and sharing when she should.”
READ MORE about how the Culter sisters joined the team together.
Perez also said he’s not surprised more club players like Herrera are coming back to play the high school season.
“People say it’s because they’re doing too much soccer, but I don’t think it’s that,” Perez said. “I think it’s that they’re taking it too seriously too soon. Kids want to have fun, and it’s becoming not fun. The business of club, the idea that a coach is already an agent for a player at 14, trading these kids around from club to club… I think (Herrera) realized that she’s done so much work and she’s ready to have some fun out here again.”
We stopped by training this week and talked to Herrera about her soccer life, her club experience and off-the-field interests…
Question: What is it like to play in a club soccer college showcase in front of almost 80 coaches?
Answer: When you first get there and you see all of the coaches on the sidelines it’s stressful, but once you start playing you just become yourself and you don’t really pay attention to them.
Question: Is it strange when they come up to talk to you after the games?
Answer: No, but I like meeting people. I loved that, and calling the coaches when they were interested in me. I got to call them and talk about stuff other than soccer.
Question: Are players just playing for themselves in those showcases?
Answer: Showcases aren’t really about yourself. They’re about making your teammates look good too. with high school games it’s all just competitive, but not in showcase play… They’re seeing how you work with other people.
Question: Does club soccer take over your life?
Answer: Yes, I had to sacrifice a lot. Practicing so much took away me being able to hang out with my friends like I used to, or like I would want to. It’s important to cherish the time you do get with your friends. Most of my friends are also in club sports, so we’re all so busy.
Question: Do you ever wish you did it differently?
Answer: I never regret the choices I make. Going to a Pac-12 school was always my dream. There’s no going back now, I have to just keep getting better. The competition in the Pac-12 is so good, it’s a good game every week. Some of the club girls I know are going to other Pac-12 schools too, so I’m looking forward to playing against them again in a whole new environment.
Question: How is your club style different than the style you play at Poly?
Answer: I am more of a possession-type player using ones and twos to get around defenders. I feel like I get that more with club, but that’s all we practice and really the only style we know how to play. I feel like at Poly we know how to play each one. We know how to switch the game depending on the team we’re playing.
Question: Do you watch a lot of soccer when you’re not playing?
Answer: I only really watch the World Cup, if i’m being honest. I don’t watch as much (professional) soccer as I probably should. I watch all of the high school videos on YouTube. I watch to see how other people play and see if I can learn anything from their style.
Question: What do you want to study at Oregon State?
Answer: Something in public health. I pretty much always wanted to do something with health and medicine. I had a lot of injuries and stomach problems when I was younger so I just wanted to do something that would help.
Question: What is your favorite food?
Answer: I like a lot of food, but probably Chick-fil-A or Chipotle.
Question: How about least favorite food?
Answer: Sea food. I don’t like the texture of any of it.
Question: Do you have a favorite movie?
Answer: Clueless. I don’t know how I got on to it, but I used to watch it every night in middle school. Then I would be walking around school quoting every line in the movie.
Question: What music will you be listening to before the semifinal to get pumped up?
Answer: We listen to a lot of SoundCloud rappers… Gabby Pacada and I dance in the parking lot before every game. Their songs just get you hyped.
Long Beach Poly’s Skylar Herrera, Goal of the Year Candidate; Oregon State Signee
Check out this video of a beautiful goal by Skylar Herrera in a first-round playoff win for Poly