Two of the best days of the year happen in November for Newport Harbor High senior Sophie Evans.
It's hard to beat going out on top in high school field hockey. She did that Nov. 3, helping Newport Harbor top rival Huntington Beach, 2-0, in the Los Angeles Field Hockey Assn. Tournament of Champions title game.
The Sailors collected their fourth straight TOC title. Evans, a midfielder, collected MVP honors for the entire tournament.
In less than two weeks it's Thanksgiving, and that's another great day for Evans. After all, she's the girl who says her favorite food is Thanksgiving dinner.
This year Evans will not be feeling tired off some Tryptophan. She'll be on the road for the holiday, in Phoenix for a club field hockey festival with the Mulligan Divots.
"I'll probably get some takeout or something," she said.
Evans can still count her blessings. In terms of field hockey, she has so much for which to be thankful.
The Sailors were not necessarily expected to beat the Oilers this year in the playoffs. Huntington Beach defeated Newport Harbor by identical 2-0 scores twice in the Sunset League. Sure, the Sailors beat the Oilers in the final of the OC Invitational, but that was on penalty strokes.
In the TOC, though, the Sailors stepped up. Evans prefers to keep it in those terms, talking about the team. She's not one to hog the limelight.
"We pulled through," said Evans, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. "Our team always pulls through when it matters, and I was pretty proud of them for that. Winning it, the actual day? We just owned it. We all played as a team. I love those girls so much."
Evans did not score a goal in the three-game tournament, yet her dominance in the midfield was so pronounced that referees and opposing coaches agreed that she was the most valuable player on the field.
Coach Amanda Boyer was not surprised.
She has coached Evans for all four years, the first two on junior varsity before Boyer replaced Devon Kelly as the varsity head coach last year.
This year on varsity Evans was one of three senior captains, along with Allie Pantoskey and Courtney McIntosh. Her leadership qualities have never been in question.
"She's so driven and has such a high energy," Boyer said. "She wants the ball. You're never worried when the ball is loose, because you know Sophie's going to come up with it. She's a wonderful offensive and defensive player. And she's an amazing athlete, but also an all-around outstanding person."
Coach and player have a bond that goes beyond field hockey. It's a special group of seniors, the quartet of Evans, Pantoskey, McIntosh and Emily Mitchell. They're the four players who made Boyer's JV team four years ago as freshmen.
Evans talked about remembering when Boyer got married. Now her coach has a baby on the way.
"Field hockey has made my whole high school experience, and she's been the one leading that every year," Evans said. "More than a coach, she's been a family figure, motherly. She's just such an amazing person that I look up to.
"Every year we have a team in August, and it's like, 'All right, this is going to be an interesting season.' She just turns the team from nothing into a winning team every year, and it's amazing. Her coaching is indescribable."
Boyer is part of a strong support system for Evans, who has a 4.0 weighted grade-point average at Newport Harbor. That also includes her father, Bart, and mother, Jenifer, who never miss Sophie's matches. She said her older brothers Buck and Chase, both of whom played sports at Harbor as well, have helped fuel much of her competitive drive.
Evans and McIntosh, who grew up playing soccer together, worked well together in the midfield for the Sailors. Evans' goal-scoring drive showed up at good times for the Sailors.
She scored a goal in last year's TOC final, a 2-0 victory over the Oilers. Another time Evans' drive came out was at a Sunset League match at Fountain Valley on Oct. 13.
Battling foot tendinitis, she was supposed to sit it out for the favored "Chix With Stix." But after the host Barons went up a goal early, she decided not to take "no" for an answer.
"My foot was being iced and I took my ice off," Evans said. "I was just like, 'No way, Amanda. Let me in.' I didn't think she was going to let me go in, but she did."
Boyer put Evans at forward instead of her usual midfield spot, wanting her to score a goal. After Pantoskey scored to bring the game into seven-on-seven sudden death, Evans scored two minutes into overtime to give the Sailors a dramatic victory.
"She went in and changed the momentum and all-around drive of the team," Boyer said. "She's just a fabulous kid. I always joke around with my husband [Jason] that I hope our child ends up like Sophie."
Again, Evans' focus goes back to the team.
"I felt so helpless on the sidelines, not being able to help them out," she said. "Obviously, my team, it's all about them. I just wanted to go in and help out, and we were lucky enough to put it in. But it was all them; it's not like I won it and stole the show. It was amazing. Definitely one of those crazy moments."
Evans will miss those moments with the Sailors. She said she may continue playing field hockey in college, but she's keeping her options open. Academics are also important.
Whatever her decision, she walks off the field at Newport Harbor as a champion. The word she used to describe winning the TOC again was "surreal."
"I love transferring that aggression and competitive spirit out on the field," Evans said. "You're drilling through the balls and scoring goals, then you just have your teammates running up and hugging you and you did it for them too. There's nothing better than the feeling of winning at the end, and you know you played your best."
Check and check. Two more things for which Evans can give thanks.
Just save her some stuffing for when she gets back from Arizona.
Born: Sept. 12, 1993
Hometown: Costa Mesa
Sport: Field hockey
Coach: Amanda Boyer
Favorite food: Thanksgiving dinner
Favorite movie: "The Goonies"
Favorite athletic moment: Winning the Tournament of Champions this year.
Week in review: Evans, a senior midfielder, helped Newport Harbor win the Los Angeles Field Hockey Assn. Tournament of Champions for the fourth straight year over rival Huntington Beach. She was voted the tournament MVP.