Rayleen Chavez studies soccer rather intently.
She is in her fourth year as a starter for the Costa Mesa High girls’ soccer team, yet in her free time she can also be found watching her favorite team, Real Madrid, on television.
“I like watching games and visualizing myself, if I was in there,” Chavez said.
Real Madrid, which has won three straight UEFA Champions League titles, has long been one of the top clubs in the sport. In her first three years of high school, Chavez only wished she could say the same about Costa Mesa High.
The Mustangs went a combined 4-22-4 in league during that time, never qualifying for the CIF Southern Section playoffs. Chavez was valuable, but her statistics as an attacking center midfielder were modest. She said she never scored more than three goals in a season.
She had to hope that her senior year would be different.
“I was just waiting for the soccer season to start,” Chavez said. “I mean, I love the sport. I put a lot of time and dedication into it.”
Enter Jason Boyce, who coached the Costa Mesa boys’ soccer team last year. Boyce, a former Corona del Mar High standout who went on to play at the University of Washington and in Major League Soccer, moved over to lead the girls this year. One change he made was putting Chavez up top as a forward.
Chavez has blossomed, with 11 goals scored. The Mustangs can say the same, as they are on the verge of clinching their first Orange Coast League title since 2008-09 with two matches remaining.
Costa Mesa played to a 1-1 tie at Saddleback on Thursday. However, the Mustangs earned a forfeit victory, Boyce said, because Saddleback used the same player in both the junior varsity and varsity matches. The win moved the Mustangs to 14-1-4, and 7-0-1 in league, ahead of second-place Calvary Chapel (5-1-2 in league).
Costa Mesa can clinch the outright league title with a win at Santa Ana on Monday.
“That would be awesome,” Chavez said. “Since my freshman year, we’ve struggled. Winning league would be a great accomplishment. I just feel like our teammates bonded better than previous years. We all get along. We actually want to play. I mean, we’ve been working really hard too. I just think the mentality of everyone is different this year. We have a lot more confidence in each other.”
Chavez is in her second year as a team captain, a role she shares with junior midfielder/forward Natalia Guzman and senior holding midfielder Lisa Martinez. Chavez and Martinez are the only two senior starters for the young Mustangs, who have dominated in league by outscoring opponents by a combined 17-2. Chavez said she has a good bond with Martinez, as they’ve known each other since they both went to Killybrooke Elementary.
The sister tandem of junior Vanessa Carrillo and freshman Daisy Carrillo have led the way for the Mustangs’ defense.
Another change that Chavez has made this year, she said, is using her left foot more. She said she has scored more goals with her left foot than with her right.
“She has the speed and the tenacity to be a hungry goal-scorer,” Boyce said. “I think, since this is her last year [of high school soccer], she’s taken it more serious this year. She has the drive right now. Her work ethic is very good right now … She’s doing a great job. We’re putting her in a position that she thrives in, and she’s a great passer as well.”
Chavez said she wants to keep playing soccer in college, probably starting out at Orange Coast College. But first, she would love a deep postseason run in her final high school season.
The Mustangs are currently the top-ranked team in Division 5. Costa Mesa has been to one CIF final in program history, sharing the Division III title in 2003 with Walnut after the teams played to a scoreless tie.
“It feels nice, being recognized,” Chavez said. “Before, nobody really cared about soccer. Nobody would come out and watch us play. Before it was just like parents coming out, and now we actually have students, teachers, staff. I mean, it feels nice having people come watch us play.”
Born: Dec. 4, 2000
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Height: 5 feet 3
Coach: Jason Boyce
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “The Great Gatsby”
Favorite athletic moment: Being able to lead the team as a team captain.