NorCal’s Soccer Community Knows The Name Maya Doms — A National Audience Is On The Brink Of Learning It Too •
Story by STEVEN WILSON | Photos by JAMES K. LEASH
It’s the first word most people utter when it comes to Davis High junior midfielder Maya Doms — an Under-17 U.S. National Team contributor and the top prospect on the Blue Devils soccer squad.
Impactful, smart, technical and fast aren’t too far behind, but they pale in comparison to her coach’s cartoon comparison for her.
“Maya is the Energizer bunny,” sixth-year Davis coach Sara Stone stated. “There’s no down time with her. She’s in every game, 100 percent, and she prepares like we’re playing the top team every game. Her drive is relentless.”
That persistent ambition translated to her first qualifier for the U-17 National Team in April of 2017, after a handful of strong performances at elite camps across the country.
It took just two showings for Doms to prove her worth as she scored one of four goals against Mexico in the team’s 4-0 victory.
“I tapped it in with my stomach into the goal off a cross,” Doms explained. “But after that tournament in Italy, I noticed how much it meant to me to play on the national team.”
Living out her dream on the international stage, Doms came to a cold realization. Nothing is guaranteed for these players, despite past achievements.
“They’re called non-negotiables,” she explained. “They tell us, ‘You can’t take any opportunity for granted’ and ‘You can’t leave anything to chance.’”
But Doms left a lasting impression, earning a starting spot and scoring a pair of goals in the tournament final against Italy — a 6-0 victory for the U.S.
“She just has a complete skill set,” Stone added. “Anybody could play her on the backline, outside back, on the front line — she defends, she attacks, she’s incredibly fit, and her first three steps — not too many people can stay with her.”
That skill set has also helped Doms at the local level. As of Jan. 16, her high school team owned a 58 match unbeaten streak spanning three seasons. In fact, the Davis Blue Devils haven’t lost a game with Doms on the team. There have been five ties during the streak, including two this season. And two Sac-Joaquin Division I championships.
“There are so many things about her that can simply change a game,” Stone said. “She’s strong, she’s fast, she’s technical, she’s aggressive — she brings that energy for us, so if she has the ball, good things happen.”
Specifically, 63 good things; that’s how often she’s found the back of the net over the last three seasons. Two of those came against Davis’ rival, St. Francis-Sacramento, on Jan. 9 as the Blue Devils earned a 5-3 win.
“She’s probably the most impactful player I’ve ever coached, and she has been like that since she was a freshman,” Stone added. “But she’s very humble. She doesn’t draw attention to herself in any way, and she’s very easy to coach.”
Where some players might get big-headed from such attention, Doms shifts focus to her team’s accomplishments over her own, and always takes time for questions from the media and fans.
“I think our entire city knows who she is,” said Alex Park, Doms’ former club soccer coach and current Davis High boys soccer coach. “She’s on the U.S. National Team, she’s a homegrown player and she has a twin brother who goes to school here, so everybody knows her name. But what makes her great is she’s very approachable.
“(When she was 14) you could just tell she was a special player,” Park added. “Just her commitment, her passion — even at age 14, it was there — so she’s been amazing to watch.”
The Davis coaches haven’t been the only ones noticing her outstanding play. Opposing squads have seen Doms take over games and change the outcome with a number of impressive moves and jukes en route to a game-deciding goal. That’s led to a heavy focus from defenders this season.
“From last year, they scouted, so they always have a player on me, or a few players,” Doms said. “They definitely pay more attention to me this year… High school (soccer) is always physical, but you just have to be aggressive and not let people push you off the ball. It’s harder when it’s two defenders, but since I’m a smaller player, I can use skill and fakes to get around that.”
At 5-foot-5, Doms doesn’t impose her will on defenders, but her smaller stature makes it easy for her to fool her foes.
She inherits the genes of a collegiate track athlete and a high school two-sport athlete as both her parents showcased skills on the hardwood, football field and track. Neither competed in soccer. Maybe that’s one reason they aren’t helicopter parents when Maya’s on the pitch.
Rocky and Clariza Doms are saying goodbye to their daughter once more as she embarks for another U.S. team qualifying practice in Florida in January — the next of many stops leading to the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship, where the top three teams will qualify for the U-17 Women’s World Cup.
“Every time I come back from the national team, I feel like I can bring something else to my game, and build on it here,” Doms said, referencing the Blue Devils program — a place she feels comfortable experimenting with new moves against live competition.
The biggest criticism for Doms at the start of national team training wasn’t on offense. It was on defense. Her size made it easy for opposing players to bully her, but she learned new ways to be aggressive on the ball, shadow defenders and intercept passes to flip the momentum.
She’s progressed rapidly, and her coaches agree. “They say I’m one of the best defending midfielders now, so now I want to perfect final passing and finishing on close goals.”
One of the perks of being on the national team roster is the training regimen they assign players.
Doms was given a gap plan for her “off weeks,” which consists of six days of drills and routines to hone specific skills, such as finishing penalty kicks, which some national team games come down to. If she’s not in school, or practicing with her high school or club team, chances are you could find Doms practicing at a field near her house. Everything from dribbling to shooting, she is out there for hours honing her craft.
That sort of dedication has elevated her game.
Beyond her national team contributions, Doms has practiced with teams from the Women’s Premier Soccer League and competed against boys teams in the area. She says “They’re definitely faster, but most of them aren’t as technical,” she admitted. “I can keep up, but I wasn’t the best one out there. They really challenged me and that made me better.”
Her opportunities with the U.S. National Team are still ahead, but following her career with the Blue Devils, Doms will join the No. 1 program in the country after accepting an offer from her ‘dream school,’ Stanford — as a freshman — during the fall of 2016.
“At first, I couldn’t believe it,” she acknowledged, recalling the day she got that phone call offer. “I knew I wanted to commit there, and even though I was looking at other schools, like Santa Clara, right when Stanford offered, I knew I had to take it.”
Beyond athletics, Doms is a standout in the classroom as well. Last year, she registered a 4.3 GPA and is currently enrolled in two honors classes. Although her international training schedule makes classwork tough, she says her teachers have been accommodating with tests and homework.
Coach Park helped establish that connection as well by inviting the Cardinal out to a game. Yet that was all he needed to do as Doms showcased her big-play ability and drew an offer from the school on her own merit.
“They came out for State Cup in 2016 and, usually when I know people are watching I get a little nervous. But I ended up playing really well,” Doms said.
Before she can join the storied Stanford program, she’ll look to complete history at Davis High. The team is in line to contend for a third straight Sac-Joaquin Section title and Doms has her eye on the prize.
“We definitely want to win sections and get the three-peat,” Doms said. “But this year, we can go past sections and move on to regionals. So we’re hoping to win that this year, too.”