Field hockey a family sport

Gracie Jimenez will play college field hockey at Cal.
(Ken Grosse)

Gracie Jimenez is latest to head to Cal to play in college


It’s not hard to trace the Jimenez family sports tree.

It starts with mother Gretchen, goes through oldest daughter Gabi and ends with Gracie, Gretchen’s youngest.

Along with Gretchen’s sister Kristen, all have played field hockey at Cal — Gretchen from 1983-86, Kristen from 1984-87, Gabi from 2016-2019, while Gracie is an incoming freshman.

Gabi and Gracie played at Torrey Pines High. Both were All-CIF selections with Gracie a standout on a Falcons team that went 11-0 in the coronavirus-shortened 2021 season, including a win over prep field hockey powerhouse Serra.

“I was clueless about college athletics when I was in high school,” said Gretchen Jimenez, who played at Linbrook High, the Serra of Oregon prep field hockey.

“It wasn’t like today where kids are flying all over the country to showcases. The Cal coaches came looking for me, came to my games.

“Things worked out pretty well. We got to play college sports, got a great education and both my sister and I met our husbands at Cal.”

Gretchen, who was captain of the 1986 Cal team and was an All-Region selection, married John Jimenez. Kristen married Mike Frantz.

Current Cal head coach Shelli Onstead was a first-year assistant in Gretchen’s first year.

Trying not to be a field hockey snob, Gretchen had Gabi and Gracie try all sports — soccer, softball, volleyball and water polo.

Griffin, her only son, played basketball at Torrey Pines, broke with family ranks and graduated from USC and is working as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management while also serving as freshman basketball coach at Torrey Pines.

Gabi, who graduated from Cal last May with a degree in cognitive science (a mix of computer, linguistics and psychology), is working for Pfizer and will be moving to New York.

“I wanted to take some time off after graduation, wanted to stay in the San Francisco area,” Gabi said. “Then this job came open in New York, and I couldn’t say no.

“We played a lot of games in and around New York, so I’m excited to live there. I love the chaos in New York City.

“I figured if I didn’t make this move now, I probably never would.”

After a brilliant career at Torrey Pines where she was a Top 50 Player in Max Field’s class of 2016, there was never any doubt on where she’d play in college.

“I had choices in the East and Midwest, but because of my mom and aunt, I grew up watching Cal field hockey, going to games and alumni events,” said Gabi, who worked in the athletic department events.

“I loved the diversity in Berkeley and the free spirits at Cal. So it was an easy choice.”

Likewise, Cal was an easy decision for Gracie.

“I want to be comfortable away from home,” said Gracie, who played soccer and water polo before settling on field hockey because it’s such a unique sport.

“I’d visited Cal all my life, so I’m used to the wacky and interesting atmosphere there. And education matters. I’ll major in one of the sciences, and Cal is strong in the sciences.”

While Gabi and Gracie are similar in the classroom, they’re different on the field.

Gabi, who hopes to find a club team to play for in New York, is a midfielder. It’s a position that gives her the freedom to move forward and attack or drop back on defense.

Gracie is a deep back defender, a position that served Torrey Pines well this season.

In beating San Diego powers like Scripps Ranch, Serra, La Costa Canyon, Rancho Buena Vista, San Marcos and Helix, the Falcons outscored their opponents 52-3 and were ranked No. 1 in California and No. 6 in the nation by MaxPreps.

“We had a really good team, and it’s disappointing we didn’t have a CIF playoff,” said Gracie, who will leave for Cal the first week of August.

“Serra is a super-good team, and I’ve waited four years to beat them, so it was a memorable season.”

Gretchen Jimenez marvels at how the game of field hockey had changed since she played.

“There is such great support now, so the girls want to play in college,” Gretchen said.

“Gabi’s game ramped up in junior high. Gracie got dragged along to Gabi’s games and liked it.

“The game is so much faster now, the players are more skilled. I was a brute-force player. I don’t know if my game would play today.”

— John Maffei is a sports writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune