High School Sports

SLO High girls soccer rolling again with Cal Poly player at the helm

San Luis Obispo's Grace Park and Atascadero's Mackenzie Wright during their PAC 8 soccer match. Photo by Joe Johnston 01-03-17.
San Luis Obispo's Grace Park and Atascadero's Mackenzie Wright during their PAC 8 soccer match. Photo by Joe Johnston 01-03-17. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Brittney Viboch always knew she would end up coaching soccer.

Just not this soon.

But when San Luis Obispo High School principal and last season’s girls soccer coach Leslie O’Connor and athletic director Jeff Brandow pulled her into an office one day, they made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“It was unexpected,” said Viboch, a 20-year-old native of San Diego, junior at Cal Poly and goalkeeper for the Mustangs women’s soccer team. “(They) pulled me in and said, ‘We love you, you’re gonna be the coach.’ I was like, ‘Oh. OK, cool.’ 

Viboch was named head coach for the San Luis Obispo girls soccer team before the start of the 2016-17 season. When O’Connor stepped down due to a busy schedule as head of the school, Viboch, who was an assistant coach last season, inherited one of the best teams in Division 2.

After an historic season that included an undefeated PAC 8 season, tying a school record with 27 wins and becoming the first soccer team in San Luis Obispo County history to win a game in the state tournament with its runner-up finish in the Division 3 CIF Southern Region, the Tigers and Viboch are picking up right where they left off. The team’s 1-0 win against Atascadero on Tuesday kept San Luis Obispo (8-0-1, 1-0 PAC 8) undefeated on the season. MaxPreps.com has the Tigers ranked as the No. 50 team in California and 126 in the nation.

The continuation of the Tigers winning ways has been in part due to a smooth coaching transition.

“It’s been probably the easiest transition just because I was an assistant last year and we built that friendship,” Viboch said.

With O’Connor, the Tigers got the experience of a coach who won eight Central Section championships over 15 years at Bakersfield High School. Viboch was four years away from being born when O’Connor started coaching, but she said her lack of experience has an upside.

“When we had a girl that was upset one day I was able to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there, like, three years ago. I know exactly what you are going through,’ ” Viboch said. “The girls know they can always come and talk to me. I’m not going to give them motherly advice, it’s going to be more like a close friend would.”

On the field, not much has changed.

San Luis Obispo lost just five seniors from last years team and returned a talented group of underclassmen to go with senior stars Grace Park and Rylie Johnson. Park, who is verbally committed to join Viboch on the Cal Poly women’s soccer team next season, is a force at striker and has nine goals in nine games.

Johnson — along with her sophomore sister, Madison, sophomore Amber Nunes and sophomore Molly Massman — make up a brick wall on a back line that has recorded six shutouts this season.

“By far those back four players are the best players on the team,” Viboch said.

A strong defense paired with scorers in Park, sophomore Amelia Corpuz Carr, sophomore Olivia Ortiz and freshman Bailey Frosts, who have combined for 27 goals, makes for a wicked combination.

“It’s been a little different in the style of play. But in the end, both coaches want the same thing: to be undefeated and win league,” Rylie Johnson added.

O’Connor is still nearby. As SLO High attacked Atascadero on Wednesday night, O’Connor was in the press box giving instructions under his breath. Viboch said the two still talk regularly about the team, and he even returned to run practice when Viboch was studying for finals.

“My personal life is gone,” said Viboch, who will return to school and soccer training with Cal Poly next week. “Everything in the morning is Cal Poly. Everything in the afternoon is Tigers. And then school fits in between. It’s fun.”

With targets on their backs, the Tigers will also have a challenging schedule in the coming weeks as league play begins. The Tigers are scheduled to play a resurgent Paso Robles team on Friday and Arroyo Grande, the Tigers’ biggest rival, in two weeks.

“It is starting to feel like last year again,” Park said. “Everyone knows our goal is to win and do better than we did last year and continue what we are doing.”