By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens Soccer Club of USL League Two are proud to partner with the Examiner in featuring boys’ and girls’ high school soccer in The City.
It’s not easy succeeding a legend, especially when he’s only moving one seat down on the bench.
First-year Lowell girls’ soccer head coach Amber Wilson has not only thrived in her new role, but also matched her predecessor Gene Vrana’s haul last season by capturing the CIF San Francisco Section and Northern California crowns.
“It’s definitely a high level to start at. I hope to maintain it,” said Wilson, who had Vrana and Cheryl Fong as her assistants.
Embracing such a massive challenge and then rising to meet it was a big reason why Wilson was named our 2019 SF High School Girls’ Coach of the Year.
“I’m in shock. I’m very honored just to be named with all the other coaches,” said Wilson, who emerged from a field of seven worthy finalists for the award. “I really appreciate all the camaraderie they’ve shown to welcome me to the coaching community.”
Wilson, Vrana’s assistant the prior season, entered her new job fully cognizant of the pressure awaiting her. After all, the Cardinals had won the past 21 CIF-SF titles as well as their first NorCal championship under Vrana. However, the longtime coach was ready to give up the reins and, thought Wilson was prime for a role reversal.
“I came into it thinking about what motivated me when I was a player,” said Wilson, who most recently suited up for the SF Nighthawks. “But I spoke to those before me like Gene and well-tenured coaches, and taking little pieces to make my own coaching style.”
The uncertainty of having a new head coach could have easily sunk the Cardinals, especially amid the emergence of Mission as a viable contender to Lowell’s City supremacy. But while the Bears gradually closed the gap, with a 4-0 loss to Lowell in their first meeting followed by a narrower 2-0 defeat in the rematch, Wilson kept the ship steady and steered the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory in the City championship.
Lowell’s run continued in the NorCal Division V playoffs, when the Cardinals faced Ripon and University Prep in the final two games. After a gutsy 1-0 win on the road versus the former, Wilson’s girls advanced to the final against the latter, who were focused on revenge and owned a sparkling 29-0 record.
Following a scoreless first half, the host Cardinals were looking at their toughest task yet. But Wilson knew just what to say, citing Lowell’s need for urgency in a situation where they had nothing to lose.
“Her speech [at halftime] really helped turned things around,” said midfielder Camila Bodden.
Four unanswered goals later, Lowell had repeated as NorCal champions.
“I keep my points simple,” Wilson said. “I like to hear from my players at halftime for their perspective and figuring out where we need to make adjustments, then give my perspective.”
Clearly the message resonated. As Wilson prepares her very first title defense, she can also add something to the family trophy case. Her husband, Jeff Wilson, is the head women’s coach at City College of San Francisco.
“There’s definitely constant conversations about coaching, and [Jeff] is a well-licensed, experienced coach,” she said. “My dad was a coach for a long time, so I learned a lot from him, too.”
Plaudits for her fellow members aside, the newest member of the Wilson Coaching Fraternity has made quite a statement after Year One.
READERS’ CHOICE: Chance Daniel, University
Though Wilson won the overall vote when adding our coaches/media ballots, the SFGlens.com online poll, counting for one-third of the total, went to Daniel (36 percent), who edged Urban’s Bobby Quinlan (26 percent).
The Red Devils played in the very competitive Bay Counties League West, taking two of three from Lick-Wilmerding and splitting a pair of contests with Urban to qualify for the North Coast Section Division IV playoffs. After a first-round triumph over St. Mary’s of Albany, University fell to top-seeded Cardinal Newman.
“Our team was really resilient after being hit with injuries, and we still pulled out some tough games,” Daniel said. “All in all, it was a great season for a really young team.”
STILL TO COME: Girls’ Player of the Year and the All-City First and Second Teams.
The San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two had four players from last season selected in the MLS SuperDraft, so come watch the next wave of local soccer stars this summer. From now until March 31, every season ticket purchase will come with a Limited Edition bobblehead of our new technical director Jimmy Conrad! Get yours now at sfglens.com/tickets.