By Steve Breazeale, Franki Darnold and Victor Carno
The winter prep sports season is underway, and in our annual preview, we get you caught up to date on several local programs primed for big seasons.
For in-game updates, scores, and news all season long, follow us on Twitter @SouthOCsports.
San Juan Hills
Over the last three seasons, the San Juan Hills girls soccer team never had to tinker much with its lineup. The team had a strong core of players who had broken onto varsity as freshmen and continued to play alongside one another for years. But many of those players have now graduated, which has opened the door for a new crop of players, along with some established veterans, to make their mark on the new season.
The Stallions defense was a strong group last year that allowed just 19 goals in 24 games. Three seniors from that group graduated, but two key players, goalie Rylee Hanes and defender Danielle Satterwhite return to anchor the group. Hanes is committed to Missouri University of Science and Technology, and Satterwhite is committed to UCLA.
In an effort to help bolster the back line, Chico State University commit Marissa Destefani will move to defensive center midfield.
The Stallions will be strong at forward, where UCLA commit Isabella Bellinghausen will patrol looking for goals. Joining her will be sophomore Rachel Hall and junior Heidi Ramirez, both first-year varsity players.
“It’s a brand new team. We’ve got so many new starters that for them, it’s just learning how to play together and reading each other and finding each other out on the field,” coach Farrel Moore said. “It’s very competitive right now for starting spots and it’s a good group.”
The Stallions defeated Irvine and Yorba Linda, and lost to Dana Hills, to start its season. —Steve Breazeale
The JSerra boys basketball team will be under the guidance of first-year head coach Zach Brogdon as it heads into the new season, and the team has been adapting to the up-tempo, hard-nosed style of play that Brogdon’s teams in the past have been known for.
Brogdon comes to JSerra after spending seven years as the head coach at Capistrano Valley Christian. He helped turn the CVCS program into a small-school power, and now, he said, he is ready to build something new at JSerra.
“We are going to be a team that works hard and has a high-energy culture,” Brogdon said. “We want to hang our hat on our ability to defend and rebound.”
The focal point of the Lions team centers around versatile 6-foot-8 forward Sebastian Much, a Princeton commit. Much has the ability to stretch the floor and defend any position, Brogdon said. Much scored 30 and 24 points in the Lions first two wins of the season over Newport Harbor and Long Beach Jordan, respectively.
Surrounding Much are returning juniors Jordan Alvarado and spot-up shooter Omeed Fakhimi.
The Lions’ roster will get a huge boost in January, when several impact transfers will be eligible to play. Junior JT Robinson, 6-foot-10 junior Joel Mensah, and sophomore Kevin White are all players that will log major minutes once they are eligible, Brogdon said. —SB
St. Margaret’s Episcopal
In an effort to pick up where they left off last season, the St. Margaret’s boys basketball team is looking for another chance to compete for the Academy League title. Last year, a majority of the starters were young, but now with a whole season under their belts, head coach Brian Carmer has high hopes for this now rather experienced squad.
The Tartans impressive 10-2 finish in league last year came as a slight disappointment, as the flu bug made its rounds late in the year and sidelined two starters down the stretch, and even held them out of the team’s first-round playoff loss to Vistamar.
What Carmer described as “a really competitive, tight-knit group,” the potential of this year’s team stretches even further than it did last year.
Senior guard Tyler Horgan will be the go-to returning player to watch this season. Carmer explains that along with fellow seniors Brennan Campbell, Nick Visconti, and junior Jay Phansalkar, this Tartan team will have a solid nucleus.
“These are all returning guys that just contributed last year. They’re just going to have to step up and do even more (this season),” Carmer said.
These four standouts, combined with the return of junior guard Ryan Cragun, who suffered from an ankle injury last season, is sure to make the dreams of chasing the Academy League title and CIF berth that much more possible.
St. Margaret’s is off to a good start in its own tournament, the Tartan Classic, which began this week. St. Margaret’s earned convincing wins over Pacific Ridge and Jurupa Hills in pool play, and will play crosstown rival Capistrano Valley Christian on Dec. 9. —Franki Darnold
Moving up a division in the CIF-SS postseason will prove to be a test for the St. Margaret’s girls soccer team, but they believe they are ready for the challenge.
The Tartans are making a jump up from Division 4 to Division 3.
“(We’re in Division 3) but our goals are still the same. We want to win our league and we want to advance as far as we can into CIF playoffs,” head coach Johnny Marmelstein said.
The Tartans return plenty of players with experience from last year’s team, which advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 4 Championships.
Marmelstein is confident his players will be able to compete in the postseason, even though their opponents will be different. Taking care of their own play will be enough to carry this group of girls through to their new competition.
“We have kids who really want to be successful, not just on the soccer field, but they want to be successful in the classroom and they want to be successful in life, so it’s easy to motivate them,” Marmelstein said.
The Tartans were fueled by a high-powered offense that averaged 3.6 goals per game last season, and much of that same core returns. The Tartans will look to seniors Blake Crawley and Anne Otterbein for leadership as well as a high level of play. Returners Lauren McCaffrey, one of the team’s leading scorers last season, and junior Cailin Young add valuable depth.
According to Marmelstein, the team’s goalkeeping play will be crucial to their success this season. Sophomore goalie Niki Miles is the returning starter, and they have a solid backup in sophomore Kennedy Barlow.
The Tartans were scheduled to open their season playing in the Linfield Christian tournament on Dec. 8. —FD
Saddleback Valley Christian
After being bumped up two divisions in CIF-SS postseason competition to Division 3AA, the Saddleback Valley Christian boys basketball team is rising to the occasion by picking up the pace. Head coach Tom Lewis is vamping up his veteran-heavy team by running the court throughout the entirety of every game.
“This season we will be running a full court, man-to-man defense throughout our games,” Lewis said. “We want to play fast and keep constant pressure on the guards. Luckily, we are in tremendous shape at the start of this season, whereas some teams have to play into shape.”
All but one member of last season’s team is returning this season, only adding to this team’s chemistry.
“I have to say that this is the best team I’ve ever had. The team is filled with tremendous character, and everyone likes each other,” Lewis said.
Led by senior Trey Smith, who won the Orange County scoring title last year, the team’s goal is to bring the school its first-ever CIF-SS championship. The Warriors came close last year, but fell short in the CIF-SS Division 5AA semifinals. The team also advanced to the CIF State Division 5 Regional semifinals.
“It’s not about personal accolades. All of us are focused on the team and leaving behind the legacy as the first team to bring home the championship,” Smith said.
Senior co-captain Trey Mena, who stands at 6-foot-4, adds length to the Warriors’ already impressive frontcourt, which features 6-foot-10 junior forward Jordan Taylor.
The team’s high intensity style of play has already paid dividends, as the Warriors are off to a 6-1 start to their season. —Victor Carno
Capistrano Valley Christian
With only 10 players on its roster, first-year head coach Jeff Beeler implemented an interesting strategy for rotating players onto the court for the Capistrano Valley Christian boys basketball team.
Beeler, who comes to CVCS after nine years at Sage Hill, has allowed his players to sub themselves out when they need a break. If they feel the need to get back in, they have permission to sub themselves back in.
The substitution method is all part of a free-flowing, up-tempo style that Beeler has brought with him this season. Beeler wants his team to press full court on defense, and slash and kick its way to points on offense.
“It’s a fun style of play for these guys, and that allows me to get into the bench a bit,” Beeler said. “We only have 10 guys so if these guys come out, they get a breather and go back in.”
The Eagles lost four All-League and All-CIF-SS players to graduation, and return just two seniors with varsity experience.
Senior Garin Green, an All-League football player, has the most experience of the squad and is leading at the point guard position. Green averaged 7.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 15 games as a junior. In the Eagles run through the competitive Canyon-Esperanza tournament last month, he was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 11 points and six rebounds per game.
Senior Jackson Miller returns, along with juniors Jeff Yan, an improved forward, Troy Kihm and Paul Stache.
There was no set schedule in place when Beeler arrived on campus, and the staff had to scramble to find opponents in the early going. CVCS has held its own playing against larger public schools like Canyon, Compton and Hesperia, and owns a 2-3 overall record. —SB