Alexia Ayala

The girl behind the mask is Alexia Ayala, 17, a team-first athlete with good grades who does her part at home too.

Alexia Ayala, as a child, said she wanted to be a cheerleader but “mom wanted me to play an actual sport.”

Ten years or so later, cheerleading is a CIF-State sanctioned sport -- but we know what Ayala meant.

So the San Gorgonio High two-sport star pursued baseball. She played at Central Little League through eighth grade and excelled, despite being the only girl.

“Being a girl, they picked on me,” Ayala said. “They would try to make me look bad. But luckily, I was good at baseball and would strike them out and make them cry. It was funny.”

Ayala, 17, continues to get the last laugh as she stars on the San Gorgonio High girls’ volleyball and softball teams. In volleyball she is the Spartans’ outside hitter and kill leader (76) for a team that at last glance was 10-6. She also has 69 digs as 23 service aces.

“Alexia has a drive about her not found in today’s players,” Spartans coach Tom Kutzera said. “Alexia is our leader and how she goes, so does our team.”

As a softball player last spring, Ayala hit .286 with 13 runs batted in while playing wherever coach Roy Ditto needed her.

So versatile and accommodating was Ayala, that she earned the approval of one of the school’s best former athletes, Emily Mestas. Mestas now plays softball at Lasell University in Newton, Mass.

“She’s one of my favorite teammates from high school,” Mestas said by email. “She was a captain with me my senior year. She gave up her center field position to be our No. 1 catcher about halfway through my junior year. She’s truly an amazing person.”

Said Spartan softball coach Roy Ditto: “We are expecting a great senior year from her as she returns to the outfield and can concentrate on the other aspects of her game.”

Leadership seems to come naturally to Ayala who has an older brother, Isaiah, who played baseball at San Gorgonio. She also has two younger siblings – Alyssa (11) and Elijah (4) – who she takes care of when her mother, Victoria Vasquez, works.

Vasquez, who played softball and ran track in her youth, is a manager at a Starbucks in Redlands.

“After practice I babysit a lot,” Ayala said. “My mom works, but it’s OK. I usually have homework, but I try my best of have fun and play with them.”

Besides, mom does her part. She provides the nudge Ayala needs to excel in sports despite her other responsibilities.

“She motivates me and pushes me to be the best I can be,” Ayala said. “She questions me about how I can improve and help the team. She’s passionate that I play sports and is my No. 1 supporter.”

Asked what not many people know about her daughter, Vasquez told of her daughter’s community involvement – volunteering at food pantries, handing out backpacks to underprivileged students and helping the Redlands police distribute gifts to the needy during the holidays.

Ayala also excels in the classroom (3.5 grade point average) and dreams of attending Grand Canyon University in Arizona. But first she has most of her senior year and two athletic seasons to complete.

“We have a lot of new girls who are trying to understand the game,” Ayala said of her volleyball team. “We’ve done a great job catching up from COVID, and I love coming together and bonding so we can have the best outcome.”

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