Nogueira relishes the ride

Mariah Nogueira could talk about her accomplishments on the soccer field or the softball diamond for hours, but that’s not necessary.

Her sparkling four-year varsity résumé in both sports speaks for itself. Nogueira was recently named Female Athlete of the Year by the Orange County Athletic Directors Assn.

On Monday night, she was named Marina High’s Female Athlete of the Year for the second straight year at the Larry Doyle Hall of Fame Awards.

These two nights were just part of a busy social calendar as Nogueira’s senior year comes to a close. There’s the Vikings’ softball banquet Friday, and Nogueira has also earned the Odin Award for Marina student of the year.

And, oh yeah, Nogueira was Marina’s prom queen last weekend.

“It was exciting,” Nogueira said. “I’m not the kind of girl who grew up trying to be prom queen.”

Nogueira is going to Stanford on a soccer scholarship but, save an all-star softball game, her high school sports days are done. At this moment, she’s trying to be the school champion at “Ninja” instead.

It’s a hand-slapping game sweeping the nation, or at least the Marina High campus. And Nogueira is darn good at it.

“I’m usually one of the only girls that plays, but I love beating the boys,” said Nogueira, who played against them for years growing up in Fountain Valley Youth Baseball. “That’s like my favorite thing to do ... [Ninja] is so complicated to explain. You stand in a circle, and the goal is to slap someone’s hand. You only have one move to do it. Wherever your arm ends up, that’s where you have to stay until it’s your turn. It’s hilarious. I love it.”

It’s the competition that Nogueira craves. It’s no different from when Nogueira, who has played club soccer for Slammers FC and been involved with the U.S. youth national program, is roaming the pitch from her center midfielder spot. This year, the Sunset League girls’ soccer MVP helped the Vikings into the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs against El Toro. Nogueira scored a game-tying goal in the final seconds of regulation for Coach Mike Greco’s squad.

But nothing Nogueira does would surprise. Ask longtime Marina softball coach Shelly Luth, and Nogueira may be the closest thing to a perfect teammate there is.

The competitive nature shines through, even in a sport that Nogueira doesn’t play year-round like so many softball players. Nogueira batted .371 for Marina this year and led the team with 19 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases , helping the Vikings share the Sunset League title. Nogueira, in turn, shared the league MVP award with Brittney Spalding of Los Alamitos.

“Mariah’s just so poised,” Luth said. “She’s got so much composure and she just competes. She’s the best student-athlete I’ve had in a long time.”

Luth is reminded of Marcy Crouch, who starred for Marina in softball and soccer in the mid-1990s and went on to play softball, coincidentally, at Stanford. Crouch was also the last girl to win the school’s athlete of the year award back-to-back.

How good of an athlete is Nogueira? She also played volleyball her first couple of years at Marina. One thing fellow softball senior Erin Cuevas knows about her friend is that besides Ninja, Nogueira also excels in “Catch Phrase,” as well as a variation of the card game “war” called “Egyptian war.” The two play cards everyday in class now that Advanced Placement testing is done.

“We’re all just slapping,” Nogueira said. “We draw blood sometimes, unintentionally.”

Cuevas, the second baseman, teamed with Nogueira all year to form a rock-solid middle infield behind the team’s third senior, pitcher Taysia Kaufman.

Cuevas said she wasn’t surprised that Nogueira was named prom queen, another accolade to add to the list.

“Our team was really united this year, and Mariah was a big part of that,” Cuevas said. “She has no problem being friendly with freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors. She’s always the first one to go and introduce herself.”

Nogueira’s friend Austin Brashears, himself a senior who plays water polo and volleyball, has seen that enthusiasm at any number of Marina sporting events.

“She’d always go to the basketball games with her little Viking hat,” Brashears said. “She’s definitely one of the more spirited people.”

Nogueira also likes cooking, scrap-booking and playing the ukulele, none of which are all that competitive. Early in the morning, though, Nogueira’s competition is the alarm clock.

She’s a member of the Mormon church, and Nogueira is at seminary at 5:30 a.m. every day. So when does she have to get up?

“Five minutes before I leave,” she said with a laugh.

So soccer isn’t the only time when Nogueira has to be quick on her feet. But, to Luth, the dedication is just one of the things that has helped set the two-sport stud apart.

“She makes teams better, and she makes people better,” Luth said. “She’s just the whole package.”


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