Carlos Alfaro couldn’t take his eyes off the 5-year-old kicking a ball as hard as she could against a wall. He was supposed to be paying attention to her older sister, who Alfaro was training. But the sound of the ball thudding against that wall kept stealing Alfaro’s attention.
“The ball would come back way faster than I kicked it. It fascinated me. I remember it was so much fun,” Nicole Dallin said.
“She’d come out to the training sessions and would kick this ball against a wall,” remembered Alfaro, the Paloma Valley girls soccer coach. “Just constantly kicking the ball over and over. She was so focused on what she wanted to do. I remember telling her mom this girl was going to be really good. Surprisingly, she was. She was super good.”
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Not surprisingly, given her laser focus, physical presence and fanatical work ethic, Dallin became super good at this soccer thing. She’s not bad at the tennis thing either and Dallin’s versatile and oft-dominant skills made her the IE Varsity Large Schools Girls Athlete of the Year.
“This may sound bad and I don’t want it to, but I’m surprised by this,” said Dallin, who is bound for the University of Arizona’s soccer team. “I didn’t feel like I did much, compared to other years.”
Dallin did plenty in her final, coronavirus-abbreviated year at Paloma Valley. On the soccer field, Dallin wrapped up a stellar career with 39 goals – including 17 of Paloma Valley’s 37 in Ivy League play. She scored seven hat tricks, including five-goal and four-goal outbursts against league rival Riverside Poly and three goals against Valley View. In the latter game, Dallin scored a goal that is in the mix for high school goal of the year honors. Alfaro picks up the description.
“She juked three players, went to her left and took a 35-yard shot that hit the crossbar, bounced back toward the goalie who was trying to stop it. It hit her in the back and went in. It was crazy good.”
That was one of Dallin’s 103 career goals, one that helped bring her Ivy League MVP honors. Two years ago, Dallin was The Press-Enterprise’s Girls Soccer Player of the Year and the CIF Southern Section Division 4 Player of the Year, when her 55 goals and 16 assists helped the Wildcats capture the Division 4 title and reach the state regional title match.
“She’s so dominating. Just a very dominating player when it comes to soccer,” Alfaro said. “What it is is the physical strength she has and her soccer IQ. Her ability to get around people. She’s so quick, it’s deceiving. You don’t realize how quick she is.
“When I had tryouts her freshman year, they were telling me about Megan’s sister. I said I remember her, but it’s been so long. She came out and the first time she got the ball, she went around three different girls, juked and scored. When I saw that, I looked at my assistant and said, ‘She’s on varsity.’ Just like that.”
On the tennis court, Dallin was the Sunbelt League Co-MVP, reeling off a 26-1 record with three-year doubles’ partner Brenda Olas. The sport her mother Denise pushed her into became a wonderful athletic outlet that keeps Dallin’s never-ceasing brain going, trying to figure out angles, different shots and even the innate joy of spiking a ball at her opponent’s feet at the net.
“It’s crazy looking back because at the start, I was awful,” she said. “It was not as easy as soccer and it wasn’t as serious for me, but it was more fun. Tennis is so much more technical than soccer. If you move your wrist one way, the ball goes out. It was frustrating to train myself to focus on how I was hitting the ball. It definitely did not come easy.”
This definitely contrasts to soccer, which Dallin makes look sickeningly easy. For that, however, her two older sisters get generous assists. Dallin grew up going to her sisters’ practices because “they were way more fun than mine.” But the competitiveness in the Dallin family came baked into her DNA. So much so that when Dallin started playing soccer, she would take the ball from her teammates, score, then run down the sidelines announcing “That’s one, Mom… That’s two, Mom… That’s three, Mom. …”
“When I’m playing a game, there will be these huge girls and I think growing up with competitive sisters, I can not let anyone push me around,” she said. “We’d wrestle and I got the mindset I don’t want anyone to beat me. It comes naturally, the physical side of it. I do not like getting pushed around.
“When I’m going into a 50/50 ball with someone, I’m not coming out of that on the ground. There’s no way. My sisters and my dad gave that to me. … We did not like losing.”
You could say that Dallin goes to the wall to avoid it.