As the champions of winter compete for their crowns, the throng of spring sports teams take to the field, diamond, pool, court, track and sand.
The spring season features a loaded schedule, with San Juan Capistrano’s high schools fielding up to a whopping 12 spring squads each, compared to the seven teams in each of the winter and fall seasons.
With high goals and expectations for several local sides, let’s look at some of the top San Juan Capistrano teams in this spring season:
Girls Beach Volleyball
As the sport enters its second season as a CIF-sanctioned sport, girls beach volleyball teams now have something extra to look forward to with their first CIF-Southern Section championship playoffs.
For a sport to warrant CIF-SS playoffs, there must be a minimum of 20% of the section’s member schools to field a team. The Southern Section reached that number this season, so there will be both bracketed team playoffs and a pairs tournament.
With CIF-SS playoffs also come divisional rankings and a preseason watch list. JSerra, St. Margaret’s and Capistrano Valley Christian all are on the initial CIF-SS Division 1 and 2 watch list. San Juan Hills will also field a beach team this season, and the Stallions play in the South Coast League with watch-list teams San Clemente and Tesoro.
JSerra opens the Trinity League against Orange Lutheran on Monday, Feb. 27, and hosts Capistrano Valley Christian on March 8. St. Margaret’s opens the Orange Coast League against Estancia at Huntington State Beach, home of all the Tartans’ league games, on Monday, Feb. 27.
The CIF-SS playoffs open the first round on April 25
Beach volleyball is contested with five pairs playing best 3-of-5 matches.
When it comes to baseball in San Juan Capistrano, there’s clearly one top focus: JSerra.
The Lions finally won their first CIF-SS championship last season, and now the Lions enter the season with the target on their backs. Every single target on their backs. Name a ranking, JSerra is likely No. 1 on it, whether it’s county, CIF-SS, state, regional or national.
JSerra is, by all accounts, the best team in the country, as it awaits its season opener on Friday, Feb. 24, at Chaparral of Scottsdale, Arizona. The Lions featured 10 NCAA signees for baseball signing day back in November, including six players signing with Pac-12 schools: reigning CIF-SS Division 1 player of the year Andrew Lamb (USC), infielder Trent Caraway (Oregon State), infielder Lou Fujiwara (Washington), pitcher Brodie Purcell (USC), pitcher and outfielder Ben Reimers (Stanford) and first baseman Dominic Smaldino (Cal).
JSerra opens the Trinity League at home against Mater Dei on March 7 and will play in the elite National Invitational in Cary, North Carolina, on March 29.
Don’t let JSerra’s outsized resume blot out the sun from the rest of San Juan Capistrano’s baseball scene, which features some real competitors.
Capistrano Valley Christian is a small team to watch, particularly for its two Big 10-bound players: Indiana commit Hayden Carlson and Michigan State commit pitcher Hunter Long. The Eagles are 2-3 on the early season.
San Juan Hills posted a 3-0 win at home over CVC last Friday, Feb. 17. The Stallions (3-3) open league play at home against El Toro on March 15.
St. Margaret’s begins play in the Orange Coast League this season starting on March 7 at Estancia.
San Juan Capistrano is a hotbed for both sides of the bat-and-ball sports, as JSerra, San Juan Hills and Capistrano Valley Christian were all featured on their respective CIF-SS division’s preseason watch lists.
JSerra will be tough in Division 2, and the Lions have solidified a top-three competition in the Trinity League with Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran. JSerra’s top hitter, Alyssa Grajeda, was a freshman last season and top run-producer Kaylee Layfield was a sophomore. The Lions are 4-2 so far this season and play at San Juan Hills on Friday, Feb. 24. JSerra opens league play at Orange Lutheran on March 14.
San Juan Hills is on the watch list in Division 3 after a run to the CIF-SS quarterfinals last season. The Stallions (2-3) have either lost big or won close in the early action this season. San Juan Hills will look for consistency before it opens league play at home against Aliso Niguel on March 21.
Capistrano Valley Christian jumps up two divisions to Division 5 after its first CIF-SS championship last season. The Eagles were dominant and explosive throughout last season, and while CVC graduates Orange County’s single-season home run leader Natalie Gleason, three of the Eagles’ top offensive players were freshmen last season in Katelynn Cammarato, Kylee Cammarato and Savi Maier. Kylee Cammarato was CVC’s starting pitcher last season, as well.
Other Notable Teams
Securing a top place in the CIF-SS preseason rankings, as per usual, are the St. Margaret’s boys and girls lacrosse teams. The Tartans girls open at No. 3 in Division 1, and the boys sit at No. 4 in Division 1. The St. Margaret’s girls return their top two goal-scorers from last season, and the Tartan boys will have plenty of motivation from last year’s semifinal thriller loss to Foothill.
On the track, JSerra is No 1 in the CIF-SS Division 3 preseason poll, and that’s no surprise. The Lions girls cross country team was one of the most dominant and cohesive units in the state last season on the way to another CIF-SS championship and state title. The Lions won the Orange County Track Championships last season, as well. The JSerra boys are also in the rankings at No. 5 in Division 3.