Hodel an X-Factor for all
On the first day of training camp, Huntington Beach High girls’ soccer coach Raul Ruiz heard some unusual buzz as the players filed onto the field.
He was being told that there was a must-see player attending the tryouts, although it was not for any of the reasons that piqued his interest.
“The first thing that they told me is, ‘You have to take a look at this 6-footer that came out,’” Ruiz said. “‘My gosh. She has great, beautiful hair. She looks like Beyonce.’”
Ruiz awaited the opportunity to observe what he really wanted to see. Could this girl make magic happen with a ball at her feet?
When he finally met Xolani Hodel, he had his answer in short order. The team was holding a two-day tryout.
Hodel notified Ruiz that she was not going to be able to attend the second day, and the Oilers coach told her that would not be a problem.
In a matter of moments, the multi-talented freshman had convinced Ruiz that he had a ready-made asset to add to his squad. The issue at stake was sustainability.
A soccer player since the age of 8 who now trains with the FC Slammers organization, Hodel developed a horde of interests before entering high school. She also competes in volleyball, basketball, and track and field.
“It’s exhilarating,” Hodel said. “I don’t understand how I enjoy each sport equally. They’re all so much fun, and it’s kind of like my free time. That’s how I relax, by playing sports.”
Soccer and basketball are both in the winter, meaning that Hodel has had to perform a juggling act.
Playing both sports has been seen in this area before with the likes of goalies Kat Hess (Corona del Mar) and Rachel Harris (Huntington Beach). The wear and tear of playing two sports in the same period is accentuated with Hodel, who runs up and down the pitch as a forward.
Ruiz and Huntington Beach girls’ basketball coach Russell McClurg had to map out proper resting time.
“We both agreed that if we wanted her to last for both, the basketball program and the soccer program, we would have to come to an agreement in which there were some days where we would just give the kid a day off,” Ruiz revealed.
It has worked out for both sides. Hodel started the soccer season as a defender. The 6-footer was moved to forward for the second half of league, as the team was struggling to replace the production of graduated strikers Sawyer Koelsch and Darcy Weiser.
Converting to forward has brought excitement to Hodel, who said it was nice to get a different look at the game. The rising star is pushing the limits of what she can do.
She has six goals and seven assists this season for the Oilers (19-7-5), including a truly spectacular performance in her first playoff game. Hodel scored two goals in Huntington Beach’s 3-0 victory over fourth-seeded Harvard-Westlake on Feb. 16.
On the basketball court, Hodel has been growing in confidence. She went from a role player who was receiving limited minutes to the team’s starting center by the second half of league.
“We all know that she is a great athlete,” McClurg said of Hodel. “If you have a great athlete and a smart athlete, they pick up your system quicker. Sometimes, it takes a year for a kid to learn the system. It’s taken her half of that.”
McClurg went as far as to say that Hodel’s heightened basketball IQ would be an X-Factor in the team’s semifinals rematch with second-seeded Esperanza (26-3) on Saturday night, which the Oilers won 42-29. The Oilers (21-7) fell to the Aztecs, 47-42, in a nonleague game on Dec. 15.
A defining moment for Hodel as an Oilers basketball player came in a league game at Los Alamitos. She had 10 points, 15 rebounds, three steals, and two blocks.
That is a full day’s work, but Hodel’s biggest contribution came with 26 seconds left in a tie game. She sunk two free throws in a one-and-one situation, helping the Oilers to the win that would ultimately give them a share of the league title with the Griffins.
“Those free throws that I made in that game against Los Alamitos, I feel like that was a turning point,” Hodel said. “I could actually do well at that level and be a starter.”
Highlights such as these provide validation for Hodel herself, but she has excelled in whatever she has pursued. She has a 4.4 weighted grade point average while participating in all of these sports.
Her parents would be good examples of those who have successfully navigated full schedules, as both competed in track and field in the then Pac-10 Conference. Greg Hodel, her father, was a thrower at UCLA. Her mother, Peggy Odita-Hodel, was a heptathlete at Stanford.
“They’re very supportive,” Hodel said of her parents. “They really let me do what I want to do, and they encourage me to do what I can do.”
A girl can dream, and this one has plenty of ambition. Hodel’s adventures have extended outside of the world of academics. She also does modeling and acting.
In 2015, she appeared in a Pepsi Super Bowl commercial promoting Katy Perry’s halftime show. In the clip, Hodel is seen looking up into the bright light of a U.F.O. as it is about to touch down, announcing the arrival of the entertainment.
Hodel plans to compete in the high jump, and she may pursue other events when the track and field season arrives.
As the course work becomes more rigorous, Hodel has acknowledged that a day may come when she is forced to specialize with fewer activities. Hopefully, she can remain an X-Factor, for all.
Born: June 15, 2002
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 136 pounds
Sport: Soccer, Basketball
Coach: Raul Ruiz (Soccer) and Russell McClurg (Basketball) for Winter
Favorite food: Seafood and Sushi
Favorite movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
Favorite athletic moment: Two years ago with the club soccer team Pateadores, Hodel scored a goal on a header in a game that clinched a playoff spot. Hodel recalled the moment slowing down as the ball approached her in the air. She had been with the same club teammates since she started playing the sport.
Week in review: Hodel scored two goals in Huntington Beach’s first-round win over No. 4 seed Harvard-Westlake in the CIF-SS Division 1 girls’ soccer playoffs. The Oilers’ soccer team has advanced to the semifinals. The freshman also starts for the girls’ basketball team, which reached the Division 1A finals.