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By Zach Cavanagh
The year in San Juan Capistrano sports was filled with championship after championship and more stellar athletic performances.
Here is a look back at some of the best San Juan Capistrano sports moments of 2019:
JSerra Girls Soccer Returns to National No. 1 Spot
The JSerra girls soccer team fought its way back to the top of the USA Today national rankings at the start of the year. The Lions were 10-0 at the time of the ranking and went unbeaten on the season with a 22-0-3 record.
CVC Boys Basketball Wins First CIF-SS Championship
The Capistrano Valley Christian boys basketball team captured its first CIF-SS championship with a 43-33 win over Palm Springs in the Division 3A title game at Azusa Pacific University. The Eagles were strong defensively and aggressive in the paint in the win.
JSerra Girls Soccer Wins Third Straight CIF-SS Title
The JSerra girls soccer team defeated Los Alamitos, 3-0, to claim its third consecutive CIF-SS Division 1 championship at Warren High School in Downey. It was the final game in the legendary high school career of Isabella D’Aquila, who scored the third goal.
JSerra, St. Margaret’s Girls Soccer Teams Win Regional Titles
The JSerra girls soccer team defeated Los Alamitos again, 3-1, to win its second CIF Southern California Division 1 Regional title in three seasons. St. Margaret’s rebounded from a bizarre shootout loss to La Salle in the CIF-SS Final and defeated La Salle, 2-1, to win the Division 4 Regional title, its first.
JSerra Hockey Wins League, State Championships
The JSerra hockey team dominated Santa Margarita in all five games of the season, including a 2-1 overtime win on March 3 in the CAHA state championship to qualify for the USA Hockey Nationals, as well as a 2-0 win and in the Anaheim Ducks High School League championship on March 9.
Jake Vandenburg Wins County Shortboard Title
St. Margaret’s then-junior, now-senior Jake Vandenburg earned the Scholastic Surf Series Orange County High School men’s shortboard title for the 2018-19 season. Vandenburg was also third in the season longboard standings and led St. Margaret’s to first in the men’s longboard standings.
St. Margaret’s Boys, Girls Lacrosse Both Win County, Section Titles
The St. Margaret’s boys and girls lacrosse teams both captured double championships in 2019. Both Tartans teams won their second straight U.S. Lacrosse Orange County titles. And the girls successfully defended their U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section championship with a dominant 20-9 title-game victory, while the boys avenged last year’s defeat with a 13-4 title-game win over Loyola to capture the section championship.
SVC Boys Volleyball Wins Fifth CIF-SS Title in Seven Seasons
The Saddleback Valley Christian boys volleyball team defeated Oak Park in four sets (25-19, 25-22, 13-25, 25-14) to win the Division 2 championship, its fifth CIF-SS title in seven seasons. The Warriors played in their second straight CIF-SS Final and sixth in seven seasons.
San Juan Hills Boys Tennis Wins First CIF-SS Championship
The San Juan Hills boys tennis team upset the top two seeds en route to earning the CIF-SS Division 3 championship. The Stallions beat No. 1 seed Orange Lutheran in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Mater Dei in the final.
Three City Athletes Win Individual CIF-SS Track and Field Titles
San Juan Hills’ Sean Rhyan, JSerra’s Peter Herold and St. Margaret’s Nathan Soto each won championships at the CIF-SS track and field finals. Rhyan won the Division 1 shot put title, Herold won Division 3 titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and Soto won the Division 5 pole vault title.
Six JSerra Products Selected in MLB Draft
Five JSerra alumni and one JSerra senior were picked in the 2019 MLB Draft. Baylor’s Davis Wendzel, UCLA’s Chase Strumpf and Jake Pries, Point Loma Nazarene’s Micah Pries, Arizona State’s Lyle Lin and then-JSerra senior (now-UCLA freshman) Michael Curialle all were selected in the first 31 rounds.
Isabella D’Aquila Named National Player of the Year
Then-JSerra senior, now-Santa Clara freshman Isabella D’Aquila was named the 2018-19 USA Today National Girls Soccer Player of the Year. D’Aquila scored 33 goals and added 13 assists as a senior and was also named CIF-SS Division 1 player of the year for a third time.
Royce Lewis Plays in MLB All-Star Futures Game
JSerra alumnus and 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis played in the MLB All-Star Futures game ahead of the2019 MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland. Lewis, the Minnesota Twins’ No. 1 prospect, went 1-for-2 with a single in the annual game between top prospects in MLB farm systems.
Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo Entertains Large Crowds
The Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo welcomed the top 30 contestants in the world to compete for a total purse of $180,000. Contestants competed in six different disciplines: saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping.
Capo Classics Honored for Championships at City Council
The Capo Classics senior basketball organization was honored at the San Juan Capistrano City Council for a golden summer of championships. The Capo Classics 85+ USA-CAL team won its fifth national-age group title in June, and two 65+ members won a world title with Team USA in Finland in August.
Anthony Grover Wins Second County Title
JSerra senior Anthony Grover broke his own course record by 11 seconds to win his second Orange County Cross Country Championship. Grover won in 2017 and didn’t run in the 2018 event. Grover ran the Oak Canyon Park course in 14:34.
JSerra, San Juan Hills Boys Water Polo Meet for CIF-SS Title
The JSerra boys water polo team beat San Juan Hills, 13-10, in the CIF-SS Division 4 championship game. It was the second CIF-SS title game for both No. 1 seed JSerra and No. 2 seed San Juan Hills, and it was the first CIF-SS championship for JSerra.
San Juan Hills Football Wins First CIF-SS Championship
The San Juan Hills football team won its first CIF-SS quarterfinal and semifinal on the way to its first CIF-SS championship in a 21-15 win over Loyola. Senior Joey Hobert ran for a touchdown, returned a fumble for a touchdown and blocked an extra point in the title game.
St. Margaret’s Girls Cross Country Wins CIF-SS Title
The St. Margaret’s girls cross country team won its second straight CIF-SS championship at the Riverside Cross Country Course. Freshman Liesel Blau finished second at 18:05, and four St. Margaret’s runners finished in the top 15.
Anthony Grover, Jackson Adelman Win State Titles
JSerra senior Anthony Grover and St. Margaret’s junior Jackson Adelman both won CIF-SS individual cross country championships and followed up with CIF State Championships in Fresno. Grover won his third straight state title and qualified for the Nike Cross Nationals. Adelman won his state title after a second-place finish last season.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.