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For the Love of the Game

San Marino High School seniors Katherine Norton, Paris Pirzada, Kathryn Lowe and Grace Carter have displayed their dedication by playing junior varsity soccer. Mitch Lehman Photo

They summer at places like Huntington Beach and the Hollywood Bowl, but for some strange reason, four young ladies who happen to be seniors at San Marino High School make the inexplicable decision to spend the coldest months of the year on the frigid Titan Stadium pitch playing soccer. Like some member of the animal kingdom guided by a primitive instinct, they make a natural migration to the soccer field, dinner table, or both.

What makes the decision so special is that they are all members of the Lady Titan junior varsity soccer squad, not the varsity.

Many years ago, the father of a San Marino soccer player told this reporter he was “sentenced” to watch his child play in the junior varsity soccer games, which often begin after five o’clock during a season that runs from mid-November through early February. But Paris Pirzada, Kathryn Lowe, Grace Carter and Katherine Norton routinely and voluntarily head out into winter’s chill of their own accord.

“Soccer makes me happy,” said Pirzada, a forward, who has been a member of the squad for three years. “I love being able to play in the games with some of my best friends. It is so fun every year to be able to meet new people, especially this year being the oldest on the team. I am pretty inexperienced in the game, so I would not get any playing time on the varsity team. Practice is fun with all the girls and I also love Ron [Parra], our coach. He is so encouraging as well as funny. Junior varsity soccer will always be one of my most fun memories about high school.”

Paris is a member of the Team Thailand service club at SMHS and is participating in National Charity League. She hopes to major in Business at her yet-to-be-determined college and says her favorite memory of junior varsity soccer is “the games. Especially when all of us are there, it’s cold or raining, and we play a good game.”

Grace Carter’s Lady Titan tennis matches in the fall are often postponed due to excessive heat, but that is certainly not the case during soccer season. Carter played a few years in AYSO but “was never serious about it.” She joined the jayvee team as a sophomore but didn’t re-up as a junior. She was bitten by the bug mid-season and she found herself back under the lights.

“We had low numbers last year and I missed being a part of the team,” Carter said. This year, the tennis and soccer seasons overlapped by a couple weeks and she voluntarily attended both practices.

“I continue to play because I enjoy being on the team and forming friendships with my teammates,” she said. “It’s a really great way to get exercise and Coach Ron makes it really fun for us. When I first started playing, my tennis coaches were skeptical, but they realized that it could really help with the fitness aspect of tennis.”

Carter also acknowledged that she probably wouldn’t get much playing time on the varsity squad, but has other goals.

“This year’s team is made up of mostly freshman and I wanted to give them the same fun experiences that I had as an underclassman,” Carter said. “When I was a sophomore, we always had team bonding dinners and secret sister bags and I wanted to make sure that these freshmen still had the opportunity to participate in such activities.”

Grace participates in National Charity League, earned her Girl Scout Gold Award and will be joining her two brothers, John and Robert, at Whitman College, where the whole family plays tennis.

An accomplished equestrian, Kathryn Lowe has been riding for seven years, but dismounts long enough to lace up a different style of boot to play on the junior varsity soccer team. A four-year veteran of AYSO, Lowe told The Tribune she continues to play soccer “because it is a really fun, competitive sport and I love being a part of a team.”

“My favorite memory of soccer will be the team dinners,” she said. “I love hanging out with my teammates away from the field.”

Lowe is headed to Southern Methodist University, where she will pursue a major in Business.

Katherine Norton is a renowned oboist who plays in San Marino High School’s Symphonic Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. She has also qualified as principal oboe in the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra for a remarkable 12 seasons—the beginning of which coincides with the start of her youth soccer career—but enjoys her time away from the stage.

“It’s a rare time for me to do something fun after school with friends,” said Norton, a forward and center-midfielder, who has been the team’s leading scorer each of the past two seasons. “I also play to stay fit.”

It seems as though all four who are featured here have stumbled upon an ulterior purpose, as Katherine also identified “team dinners” as what she will remember most from the soccer experience.

She hopes to attend an out-of-state college, major in molecular biology and become a professor, but will simultaneously continue her fine music career.

Hopefully, she will find that elusive link between girls’ junior varsity soccer and a love of team dinners, but that affection surely exceeds all boundaries.


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