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Athletic Round Table: Numbers Add Up to Great Season for Westmont Volleyball

Laguna Blanca football coach Shane Lopes is joined by playes Ty Trosky, left, and Wells Fowler. The Owls will be playing a CIF-SS 8-man football semifinal game at home on Saturday. Click to view larger
Laguna Blanca football coach Shane Lopes is joined by playes Ty Trosky, left, and Wells Fowler. The Owls will be playing a CIF-SS 8-man football semifinal game at home on Saturday. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Westmont College women’s volleyball coach Patti Cook had her head full of numbers at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe.

She started with the No. 35, signifying the number of matches the Warriors have played, and then 32 for the number of victories.

She continued with No. 5 for the number of players who received All-Golden State Athletic Conference honors. Libby Dahlberg was named the Player of the Year, Brooklynn Cheney received  Freshman of the Year honors and Taylor Beckman, Samantha Neely and Cassidy were selected to the all-conference first team.

Cheney is the third straight Westmont player to win Freshman of the Year, following Cassidy Rea last season and Dahlberg two years ago.

Cook’s next number was three, as in “it’s difficult to beat a team three times in a season.” But the Warriors did, knocking off Menlo and Vanguard to capture the first GSAC Volleyball Tournament. The Warriors rallied from a 2-1 deficit against Vanguard and won the match in five sets. 

The final number on Cook’s list was 15. “That’s how many people were involved in our win last weekend (against Vanguard), all 15 girls on my roster. Even though some girls didn’t get into games, they had a huge role to play, preparing the team, working hard day-in and day-out in practice and cheering their hearts out on the sideline.”

Cook went on to praise her team for the comeback win against Vanguard. 

“To see our team persevere, not give up when we had out backs against the wall with a championship on the line, that made me burst with pride,” she raved. “I’m so proud of how we performed.”

The Warriors move on to the 32-team NAIA National Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa in two weeks.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Westmont Men

Coach John Moore credited the play of senior guards Sean Harman and Jerry Karczewski for helping the Warriors start the season 4-0.

Free-throw shooting also has been key. 

“We’ve shot 126 free throws as a team and our opponents have shot 61, so we’re not fouling and we’re shooting free throws well,” Moore said. “I think that bodes well for our team thus far.”

Westmont Women

With just four returning players, coach Kirsten Moore said: “The way we’re looking at this season is a really exciting challenge ahead of us.”

She said freshmen make up almost half of her team, “so they have a lot to learn. We have a steep learning curve, but we are getting better quickly. And that’s exciting.”

The Warriors will find out what they’re made of over the next two weeks as they play four top-tier teams,” said Moore. They play at NCAA Division 2 Azusa Pacific on Tuesday and host NAIA rival Carroll College of Montana on Saturday before heading out to a power-packed tournament in Tennessee to take on two top-10 NAIA teams.

“We’ll take our lumps here and there,” Moore said. “Hopefully, we can learn and grow quickly and battle and come out with some victories.”

COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL

UCSB Women

Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said her Gauchos are “probably my most improved team from the start that I’ve ever coached.”

One of the reasons for the team’s improvement is the play of freshman Kija Rivers. She came into the program as a middle and was switched to the outside.

This past weekend, she tied her career high with five blocks against UC Irvine and improved on that the next night with six blocks and hit .455 against UC Davis.

With three road matches remaining on the schedule, Welch said third place in the Big West “is still in our reach.”

SBCC Women

The Vaqueros won a share of their sixth straight WSC North title and eighth in the last nine years. 

Ranked 15th in the state, SBCC plays host to No. 3 Canyons on Wednesday night.

WATER POLO

San Marcos Girls

Coach Chuckie Roth said his team is decimated with injuries right now but expects the injured to recover well, play well and challenge for a CIF title like last season. The Royals were runners-up in Division 1 of the CIF-Southern Section and No. 2 in the nation.

“This year we’re looking for a similar result,” he said.

Roth introduced two key returning players, sophomore Cassidy Miller and senior Piper Smith. 

“Cassidy Miller filled big roles last year and stepped up for us big time during the season,” he said.

He called Smith, who recently signed with UC Irvine, “arguably the best center defender. She’s a great leader; my program is great because we have great leaders and they learned from the people in front of them. It gets handed down year after year.”

SBCC Women

Halie Johnson “is a large reason why we’re as successful as we are this year,” Roth said of the former San Marcos star he also coached in high school

SBCC is playing in the State Tournament this weekend at Cuesta College. The Vaqueros were state runners-up last year.

Roth said Johnson’s role is different than last season when she scored 80 goals.

“This year, she had some 30-odd goals. But that's not what it's all about. It’s what the team needs out of her,” Roth said. “Every day she is a great mentor, role model and leader for this team. They’re doing great things because of Halie.”

Johnson will be moving on to Cal Lutheran at the conclusion of the semester.

Roth said freshman Meagan Mckillican from Foothill Tech is “playing the best water polo of her life.” She scored two goals in win over Riverside in the So Cal Regional final.

FOOTBALL

SBCC

Coach Craig Moropoulos raved about the resiliency and character of running back Manny Nwosu, who became just the second Vaquero in 47 years to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He finished with 1,080.

“For a young man to play the whole season carrying the load and rush for 1,000 yards and stay healthy, is a real tribute to the young man,” said Moropoulos. “I’m proud of Manny. We’ll be watching at the next level.”

After winning the season finale 14-0 at L.A. Valley, Moropoulos is already looking forward to next year. 

“We had only 13 sophomores. I’m very excited about next year and the character and leadership we have.”

Bishop Diego

Assistant coach Steve Robles lauded the play of freshman safety Luke Knightly in the Cardinals’ CIF playoff-opening win over Norte Vista of Riverside.

“He could not have played the run better. This was a run-dominated team and he was right in the pile every time,” said Robles.

The Cardinals played without injured John Harris at running back, but Robles noted the other running backs did a good job. He cited Evan McKeegan and fullback Chris Mesipam.

“He’s really come a long way,” Robles said of the 6-2, 220-pound Mesipam. “We’re very happy with his play. It all came together in this game.”

He noted that Harris is day to day for Friday’s quarterfinal home game against San Marino. 

“We hope to have him back. His rehab is going well. If everything comes out, he should be playing on Friday.”

Laguna Blanca

Coach Shane Lopes credited the play of Wells Fowler and Ty Trosky for helping the Owls come from behind and beat fourth-seeded Desert Christian Academy in the CIF-SS 8-man football quarterfinals.

Laguna Blanca was down 20-6 and came back to win 44-35.

Trosky and Fowler hooked up on a couple of touchdowns to tie the score at 20-20, and the Owls wore down DCA in the second half.

“It was all about the players that night,” he said.

On Fowler: “He made some plays that allowed us to prevail. He’s come a long way with his focus and self determination,” said Lopes.

He said Trosky made a key adjustment that made a huge difference in the offense running smoothly.

“He had trouble with the snaps, and the offense is predicated on timing,” Lopes said. “The snaps were low and instead of complaining, he got lower (to receive them); he became a shortstop back there and was still able to get the job done.”

Laguna Blanca will host top-seeded Hesperia Christian on Saturday at 1 p.m.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

San Marcos

Coach Chris Hantgin has high hopes for the upcoming season, which begins next week.

“The majority of our girls are back, we had a solid summer. We’re ready to turn the page.”

Jackie Hernandez is one of the returnees. Hantgin calls the senior guard “one of our most athletic players.” She is the team’s defensive specialist.

Juliet Dodson, a two-year starter, is recovering from a knee surgery. Hantgin is hoping to get her back this season.

The third player he brought was Taylor Hantgin, his daughter, who is coming off a solid season with the volleyball team. She missed all of last basketball season with a knee injury.

“She’s looking good. She hopefully will run the point for us and play off guard as well,” said coach Hantgin.

He said the goal is to win 13 games to qualify for the CIF playoffs. The Royals haven’t made the playoffs since 2009.

SWIMMING

UCSB

Head coach Matt Macedo said the men’s and women’s teams have had a good fall season. The women are 3-2, which includes a big win over UCLA.

The men’s team is 3-1, with its only loss coming against a stacked USC team that included several Olympic swimmers. 

The Gauchos are competing at the UNLV Invitational this weekend, and Macedo is taking a group of potential NCAA qualifiers (two women and six men) to the Husky Invite in Washington during the first week of December.

Macedo introduced his assistant coaches Ellie Monobe and Mark Story.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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