Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Longtime friends lead Great Oak, Temecula Valley high schools' field hockey teams


Last updated 11/16/2018 at 12:33am

Jeff Pack

The Temecula Valley and Great Oak high schools' field hockey teams pose for a group photo after their final contest of the season. The Golden Bears were victorious in the final seconds of the game. Coaches Tiffany Huisman, standing far left, and Katie Gerfen, pink far right, switched sides for the photo in support of each others teams.

For coaches Tiffany Huisman and Katie Gerfen, standing next to each other while coaching a field hockey game is very familiar – the only difference this year was, they were in opposite coaching boxes.

Huisman and Gerfen are the head field hockey coaches of Temecula Valley High School and Great Oak High School, respectively, but they coach together in the offseason at the 79 Field Hockey Club.

Gerfen said she and Huisman competed against each other while she was at the University of Virginia and Huisman was at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and coached at camps at Old Dominion University together in the offseason.They quickly became friends after that.

Fortunately for the players at Great Oak and Temecula Valley, both coaches have strong field hockey resumes.

Gerfen was a two-time High School All-American, participated on the USA National Teams in the Under 19 and Under 16 divisions, was the team captain in 2002 and 2003 at Virginia and was an NCAA All-American in 2003.

She has been a United States Field Hockey Association Futures program coach and had stints as an assistant at Indiana University and Ohio University.

Huisman was a CIF Field Hockey Player of the Year and San Diego County Athlete of the Year while in high school. At Old Dominion University, she was a two-time All-American and was the 2002 Honda Award-winner as the NCAA Field Hockey Player of the Year and was team captain in 2001 and 2002.

She went on to play on the 2007 and 2009 Pan Am Elite Teams, played in the 2006 World Cup, 2007 Pan Am Games and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In all, she was a member of the USA National Team from 2003 to 2009. She coached as an assistant at Boston University for four years and was the University of California Davis head coach for two years.

The two international-level competitors enjoyed their first season of competition against each other.

"As a competitor, I loved coaching against Katie but definitely enjoy coaching with her more than against her," Huisman said. "With GO and TV being similarly matched up personnel wise, it made for a great tactical game. We have similar ways of thinking when it comes to the game. It also made it fun to sneak a glance at each other on the sideline when we know we got away with a call."

Gerfen agreed.

"We are both very competitive and respectful of the game, the girls and each other," Gerfen said. "It was enjoyable, to look down the sideline and see Tiff smiling or wide-eyed about the game and understanding exactly what she was thinking."

This season, Gerfen's Wolfpack team competed in the Sunset League for the first time school history and finished the season with an 8-16-1 overall record, going 4-8 in league. The program started four years ago on a limited basis.

"There was a big learning curve for GOHS field hockey this season," Gerfen said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team and seeing them improve and work together more as the season went on. The hope is to build on the players being committed to the field hockey program."

Huisman and the Golden Bears just started a varsity program last year, and this year they didn't participate in the Sunset League, which is the only league in the CIF Southern Section. The Golden Bears had the upper hand, going 3-1 against the Wolfpack in all competitions.

"We were not a part of league play this year, but we are looking forward to being a part of a league in 2019," Huisman said. "Our student-athletes will be able to compete for a league title and continue to grow and be challenged."

She said the team learned a lot this season.

"Learning how to win, gaining the hunger to score goals, having tactical awareness on the field and be apart of the Hockey Bear Family," Huisman said, were some of the accomplishments the team completed this season.

For Gerfen, playing in a league for the first time was difficult, but rewarding.

"For Great Oak, we have a lot of students in IB and AP courses," she said. "Again, this was a year of a big learning curve that students had to learn how to study on the bus. Depending on traffic on the way home, we had girls with their cell phone flashlight on, studying and completing their studies. I commend those student-athletes with the discipline that found a way and challenged themselves to be great on and off the field."

Finally playing in a league that took them all over Southern California, Gerfen said, taught the girls a lot.

"I appreciate sport when you can reflect, adjust and make changes to improve physically and mentally," Gerfen said. "For example, I like that we play each team home-away and have the opportunity to reflect on the first time playing the opponents and having the students take more of a sense of pride on the field. The team adjusting, learning and improving as a unit is why coaching is enjoyable. Being a part of a team is something larger than one's self."

With two teams now competing at the varsity level in the Temecula Valley, Huisman and Gerfen are hopeful they can continue to help the sport grow.

"Yes, I do believe this sport is only starting here in Temecula," Huisman said. "Being located just north of San Diego, a 'hotbed' for collegiate field hockey players, there is plenty of local competition and room for growth. As an Olympic sport, field hockey provides NCAA DI, DII and DIII collegiate playing/scholarship opportunities. The hope is it is only a matter of time before MVUSD jumps on board and offers this great sport.

"On another note, with 79 Field Hockey, we are striving to grow the game at the youth level. We currently have 50 local players at the youth level training with us weekly."

Gerfen thinks the sport is yet another opportunity for girls to compete.

Jeff Pack

A Great Oak High School attacker faces a sea of Temecula Valley High School defenders during the final matchup of the season between the schools in October.

"Field hockey is such a small community in the United States," she said. "World wide, it is the third largest sport. Field hockey can take people places that without sport they may not experience. It will also allow players to cross paths with tremendous people who will become lifelong friends. Having another opportunity for students to play a game will also lead to lifelong fitness."

"This sport provides additional playing opportunities for our girls," Huisman said. "Through sport we are able to develop and promote the values of accountability, hard work, teamwork and leadership through the spirit of competition, discipline and fair play. Field hockey provides another option, other than mainstream sports."

Both teams fielded full junior varsity teams as well during the 2018 season, so the future looks bright for the sport.

To learn more about field hockey and the 79 Field Hockey Club, visit

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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