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By Zach Cavanagh

The spring sports season is by far the busiest season of the CIF-Southern Section sports calendar, and that’s especially true in San Juan Capistrano.

There are 11 sports contested in the spring season, and the five high schools in San Juan Capistrano all have teams ready and aimed toward championship goals.

Let’s look at a few of the top teams in San Juan Capistrano for the 2022 spring sports season:

JSerra Baseball

The JSerra baseball team is at the top of the heap in terms of talent and the outside attention it will attract.

Coach Brett Kay has elevated this program to the status as a perennial contender, as well as a true baseball talent factory for the college ranks and MLB Draft.

Last season, JSerra made its deepest playoff run yet to the CIF-SS Division 1 final on the arms of MLB draftees Eric Silva, now signed with the San Francisco Giants, and Gage Jump, who chose to attend UCLA. The Lions lost that Division 1 title game, but they rebounded to collect the program’s first CIF State Regional championship.

This season, JSerra has those same lofty expectations placed on it again, as the Lions opened as the No. 3-ranked team in CIF-SS Division 1, No. 3 in California by Prep Baseball Report and No. 8 in the Perfect Game national rankings.

JSerra is 4-1 early in the season, scoring 26 runs while allowing only eight in those five games. The Lions’ lone loss came to No. 1 Harvard-Westlake, which beat JSerra in the Division 1 final and all three meetings last season.

Returning contributors for the Lions include Vanderbilt-bound senior pitcher and infielder David Horn, University of San Diego-bound senior pitcher Tristan LaMaison, Oregon State-bound senior pitcher Tyler Gough, senior infielder Owen Fuller and sophomore pitcher Matthew Champion.

JSerra plays CIF-SS Division 1 No. 2 Orange Lutheran in what could be the Trinity League-deciding title series, from March 8-11, and plays Harvard-Westlake again on the road on April 11.

San Juan Hills baseball. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

San Juan Hills Baseball

There may not be a better pair of baseball leagues in one conference in the entire Southern Section than the South Coast and Sea View Leagues of the Coast View Conference, and San Juan Hills is aiming to make its way up the ladder.

Last season, the Stallions were a respectable group at 14-14 overall, with a third-place finish in the Sea View League. San Juan Hills lost some top seniors to graduation, including UC Irvine freshman Dub Gleed.

This season, San Juan Hills is ranked No. 9 in CIF-SS Division 3 and looking to make the program’s second playoff appearance and first since 2019.

The Stallions are 3-2 in the early season, with strong wins over Dana Hills (8-1), Long Beach Millikan (3-1) and Cypress (2-0).

San Juan Hills opens Sea View League play against reigning league champions Trabuco Hills at home on March 16. The Stallions play their first game against San Clemente on the road on March 25 and host Aliso Niguel on March 30. San Juan Hills will also play in the prestigious Ryan Lemmon Invitational at the Great Park in Irvine April 2-6.

Leading the way for the Stallions this season is senior pitcher, infielder and outfielder Tanner Duke, who is signed to play in college at Baylor.

St. Margaret’s Boys and Girls Lacrosse

Among the San Juan Capistrano teams that always have championship aspirations are both St. Margaret’s lacrosse programs, which both enter the season with top talent once again.

Both teams enter the season on the CIF-SS Division 1 watch list, but both teams are starting from different positions.

The boys side is coming off a Division 1 quarterfinal run in the first-ever CIF-SS lacrosse playoffs last season. The 2022 lacrosse playoffs were the first to be administrated and organized by the Southern Section after years under the U.S. Lacrosse banner.

Last season, St. Margaret’s was 15-4 overall and the No. 4 seed in Division 1, but lost to another perennial power in Corona del Mar in the quarterfinals.

This season, St. Margaret’s opened in near-perfect fashion with a 15-0 win over Culver City on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The Tartans boys have several college-bound players, including Will Stahl (Holy Cross), Matt Groeninger (Bryant), Makai Todd (Drexel), Sebastien Chicas (VMI), Hayden and Riley Chester (Monmouth) and Seth Forstot (Rhodes).

St. Margaret’s hosts CIF-SS champion Loyola on April 2 and Corona del Mar on April 26.

The Tartans girls are coming off a disappointing season considering the high standards of the program, but St. Margaret’s also enters 2022 with a new coach.

Megan Armes is the new girls lacrosse head coach that will help the Tartans bounce back from last season’s 7-9 record that left them out of the playoffs. Armes was previously an assistant at JSerra and Mission Viejo and played collegiately at Division 1 St. Mary’s College of California.

St. Margaret’s opened its season with a 15-7 win over Aliso Niguel on Feb. 16.

The Tartans return their leading scorers in junior Lauren Lam, Johns Hopkins-bound Grace Karstetter and junior Minka Martinez.

St. Margaret’s plays at JSerra on April 7 and hosts CIF-SS champion Foothill on April 21.

Capistrano Valley Christian boys volleyball. Photo: Zach Cavanagh

Capistrano Valley Christian Boys Volleyball

Last season produced a historic run for the Capistrano Valley Christian boys volleyball team.

The Eagles completed a swift rise to the top with its first CIF-SS championship by dropping only one set in its Division 6 title run, and followed that up with its first CIF State Regional championship by, again, dropping only one set in its Division IV title run.

CVC continued its upward trajectory with the hiring of coach Ryan Van Rensselaer, who had turned the Saddleback Valley Christian boys volleyball program into a perennial power before the school’s changeover to Fairmont San Juan Capistrano and the loss of the program. Several impact transfers from title teams at SVC followed Van Rensselaer to CVC, as the coach and his players seek to continue their dominance.

The Eagles open the season on the Division 4 watch list, with noteworthy contributors returning from last year’s championship team including  senior outside-hitter Kai Taylor, senior setter Max Stegelvik and senior outside-hitter Andrew Sheveland.

CVC is already 3-2 on the season, with a title game rematch win over Orange and wins over Kennedy and Santa Margarita. The Eagles host JSerra on March 8 and Dana Hills on March 16. In league play, CVC plays at St. Margaret’s on March 17 and hosts the Tartans on March 30. St. Margaret’s is also on the Division 4 watch list.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is multiple 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. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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