CHICO – The Pleasant Valley High School girls’ soccer team has won their last three games and started 3-0 in Eastern Athletic League play in eight of their last nine games.
Six of those victories have come via shutouts, and the Vikings’ defense is anchored in part by center defensive back Annika Ganesda.
Ganesda, a senior who leads Pleasant Valley in minutes played, is a leader for PV, which coach Eric Snedeker said brings an extra level of intensity to training with its competition on the pitch.
“It’s from the heart, because if you work hard in practice you’re going to work harder in sport. It’s just the mindset that if you work hard you can work harder,” Ganesda said.
Ganesda has been named this week’s Chico Enterprise-Record Prep Athlete of the Week after registering a 2-1 win against Chico High last week at Asgard Yards in Pleasant Valley.
Gesda played a physical game for the Vikings as PV nearly closed Chico High despite the Panthers’ offense.
Ganesda said her key is bringing in competitiveness, but also a level-headed mindset with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a 20-minute nap right before going in for a game and warming up.
Ganesda is a center by trade, as that is the position she grew up playing in and plays with her club team Butte United. Gesda has spent the last two seasons with PV as the varsity team’s starting goalkeeper. This season, she returned to her position as a defender after the Vikings had a poor backline and an up-and-coming goalkeeper – sophomore Kennedy Arntzen.
While Gesda has played a key role in PV’s backline, on December 11, 2021, Arntzen was out due to a family holiday and Gesda returned on goal and made eight saves in the championship of the foothill tournament against Lassen.
“Annie’s development as a defender this year has contributed to the success of our team,” Snedeker said. “She strives to be consistent in her technical skills and works hard in her assignments.”
After the Chico High game, Gesda explained how the roles are similar in how they view the field. On Wednesday, Ganesda said about returning to the centre-back position and that he enjoyed training with his teammates.
“I would definitely say that being able to engage a little bit more with the team is my favorite part because I have to train separately with the goalkeeper, so I won’t be able to engage with them as much,” Gesda said. “So being back on the field I definitely feel more connected with the team than I did before.”
Ganesda said that as a senior she makes it a point to ensure that PV’s goalkeeper is now connected to the rest of the team as well as Arntzen.
While it may have been easy to switch from defender to goalkeeper and back, Ganesda’s junior year saw a new addition to the game. She ran cross country and track her freshman year, but in her junior year she joined the football team as one of the team’s kickers.
Gnesda has been around football all her life. She grew up watching her sister, Kate Gesda, who graduated PV in 2017 and played under former Vikings coach Brett Silva, playing football and going to sports before she could walk. Ganesda’s father David Gesda is the coach of the Las Plumas girls’ soccer team.
Two years ago during her sophomore year at Pleasant Valley, Annika Ganesda was bored during a football unit of her PE class. He and some friends began kicking the football randomly into the goalpost and it randomly caught the attention of one of the PE teachers, who praised Gesda. The teacher said he was going to take on Mark Cooley, the head varsity football coach for PV and a strength and conditioning teacher.
Gesda laughed and thought the teacher was joking, but quickly learned that he was not as the teacher left the field and returned with Cooley. The two asked Ganesda to do some kicks to see, Cooley liked what he said and quickly made Ganesda stand up to his kicking coach.
Gnesda played his junior and senior seasons as one of PV’s kickers, attempting the majority of extra points for the Vikings in the fall of the 2021 season.
Gesda said that playing football has helped him take a leadership role on the football field, stay focused and stay calm during games. Off the field, it has shown him how to work hard at home along with workouts.
“I would definitely say it was one of my favorite experiences,” Gesda said. “The guys on the team were really welcoming and they were really nice. It was like a completely different family atmosphere than football.”
Gesda said she hopes to continue her football-playing career after high school and is currently exploring several colleges. She said school is her top priority, but athletics is a close second.