Grace Park didn’t have anything else to prove. The forward had wrapped up a junior season that saw her named The Tribune’s County Girls Soccer Player of the Year in 2016, earn a spot on the Division 3 All-CIF Southern Section team, reach the CIF Division 3 championship game and verbally commit to Cal Poly.
Instead, Park went on to have a dominant senior season in which she scored 23 goals and recorded 15 assists in 22 games, in addition to making the Division 2 All-CIF Southern Section team.
For her accomplishments, Park has been named The Tribune’s 2016-17 County Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
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Park led a talented San Luis Obispo squad that averaged 3.9 goals per game and went 13-1 during PAC 8 play. Park nearly doubled her output from 2016, when she scored 12 goals.
“This year, I was expecting that (growth) out of her,” first-year head coach Brittney Viboch said. “She was one of the few in the league that were going D-1. She had more pressure on her shoulders.”
Viboch said that while Park took over games last season through her scoring, this season she was involved in every facet of the offense — goal scoring, assisting and assisting the assist.
Park said part of her offensive development came from switching to forward during her club season, where she plays year-round. She said she used to play in the midfield and defense before reaching high school, when she switched to forward full-time.
“I think once she committed to Cal Poly, personally, I feel like she had more confidence as the year went on,” Viboch said. “She understood her role as a leader. She took control of games this year, compared to last year.
“She was a part of any goal we scored this year.”
All of Park’s playmaking came despite teams keying in on her, which opened up other avenues for sophomore Olivia Ortiz, who had 16 goals and 18 assists, and freshman Bailey Frost, who had 11 goals and eight assists, among others.
San Luis Obispo steamrolled teams, outscoring them 86-9 during the season, but were surprised in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs in a 0-0 double-overtime loss to Valencia after penalty kicks.
Cal Poly Commit
After verbally committing to Cal Poly as a junior, Park signed her National Letter of Intent in February to play for the Mustangs. The signing comes after Cal Poly lost 10 seniors to graduation this year.
Many underclassmen started or played valuable minutes last season for the Mustangs, and Park likely has a shot to make an immediate impact.
“The coaches, the soccer program and the school seem really promising,” Park said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Park will join Viboch, who is a junior goalkeeper on the Mustangs squad, in August when coaches are allowed to contact freshman for practices.
“It’s going to be a funny transition, but I worked with (San Luis Obispo) last year as an assistant, and I built my relationship with them more as a friend, rather than a coach,” Viboch said. “So that friendship was established last year, and this year it grew into a coaching friendship between all the players.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be as weird as people think it would be because we’re so close,” Park said. “It’s easier for her to connect with us because she’s as young as us.”
Although she doesn’t yet know what position she will play for the Mustangs, Park did offer some insight with a laugh: “Probably not playing defense — probably something up top.”