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Athletic Round Table: Tina Brown Ready to Coach-Up Her San Marcos Volleyball Team For CIF Playoffs

JT Stone, Nava and Lara Click to view larger
Santa Barbara High football coach JT Stone is joined by standout defenders Steve Lara, left, and Robert Nava. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The third season has arrived for the San Marcos girls volleyball team, and coach Tina Brown is fired up and ready to lead her team on a deep run in the CIF-SS playoffs.

“This is where coaches have to step up,” said Brown at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe.

The Royals (20-8), the undefeated champions of the Channel League, drew a tough opener in Division 2 — Flintridge Sacred Heart of the rugged Mission League. The league includes Division 1 powers Marymount and Harvard Westlake.

“They’re very good. They’re in one of the top leagues in California,” Brown said.

She is up for the challenge.

“As coaches, we have to come in and get these guys ready to play the best volleyball they can.”

The Royals have played strong teams out of league and have a deep squad, which should help in the playoffs.

“We’re excited. We we think we have a great opportunity to make a great run,” said Brown.

Bishop Diego volleyball coach John Sener said his team started its playoff season last week, when it faced must-win games against Villanova Prep and Providence to nail down third place in the Frontier League and a CIF playoff berth.

The Cardinals won both matches and now travel to Santa Clarita on Tuesday to play Trinity Classical in a Division wild-card match.

“We’re blessed to play a second season,” Sener said. “These girls took it heart and played some really good volleyball against a scrappy Villanova and we won in five (sets). I told them: ‘The game’s not over yet, we’ve got to play on Tuesday.’ We showed up and won that match, too.

“I told them, ‘You’re in, now you can celebrate.’”

Westmont volleyball coach Patti Cook was pumped up after her team knocked off NAIA No. 11-ranked The Master’s at home last week in three sets, handing the Mustangs their first loss in the Golden State Athletic Conference.

“That was a really fun match,” she said of beating the Mustangs. “We have a great rivalry with them. 

“I don’t get fired up for many games. I’m pretty calm and composed, and I like my team to play the same way,” she added. “But I definitely had some fist-pumping that game.”

The Warriors, currently on a seven-match win streak, have been playing without two-time All American middle blocker and senior Libby Dahlberg, who is sidelined with a high ankle sprain.

“Our team has come together and found strengths that we didn’t know we had,” Cook said.

In football, Santa Barbara High coach JT Stone want to make it clear that senior Frankie Gamberdella is still his starting quarterback.

Gamberdella played wide receiver and safety while Deacon Hill started at quarterback in the Dons’ 28-11 loss to Lompoc on Saturday.

“I just want to clarify it: Frankie Gamberdella is our quarterback. Let me clear that up so everybody understands it from me,” said Stone. “There is no removal. We went into the game with the best way we felt we could win that football game. Frankie is a very good athlete, he’s the best athlete in this town. He caught passes, he made tackles.

“I want to clarify for everybody that he’s our quarterback and he will be our quarterback for this year and in this next game along with Deacon.”

The Dons (4-4, 1-2 in league) play host to Cabrillo on Thursday night at San Marcos. They need to win their last two league games to either tie for second place or finish in third to make the playoffs.

The Santa Barbara boys water polo team also faces a big week of league games. The Dons (1-2 in league) play at Cabrillo on Tuesday and host Santa Ynez on Thursday before heading to the PAL Tournament in Orange County, where they’ll likely face some top-10 teams in their CIF playoff division.

SBCC football coach Craig Moropoulos is staying positive despite a slew of injuries on his team and a 1-5 record.

“You got to move on and focus on some positives,” he said.

“We’re 1-5 right now and we’re going to do our best at staying positive and try to be 2-5 this week. We play L.A. Harbor at home and it’s going to be a challenge for us, but that’s what the game is all about.

“It’s time to step up. We got to move on and get better. That’s why they put coach in front of my name. That’s my job.”

Here’s a recap of what the coaches said about the athletes they brought to the press luncheon:

Dos Pueblos Football

Coach Doug Caines on quarterback David Leon, the Athlete of the Week after his performance in the 33-28 comeback win over San Marcos: “David is a captain for us. We were down at halftime and David demanded from his teammates that the give every ounce of energy they had. David challenged his teammates, like a good captain should, to step up and overcome the adversity we were facing.”

On Eric Lopez: “Explosively, he led his team by example. Another captain in the halftime room demanded that his teammates play to their full potential.”

On Dillon Roberts: “He is one of those that coaches call ‘gamers.’ He’s focused and he proved that he does actually listen in the film room because he did some things that were good. He absolutely stepped up in a big game, in a big moment and proved himself.”

SBCC Football

Coach Moropoulos of freshman wide receiver Nick Foster: “He’s our go-to guy. He does everything. He’s an outstanding young man and an outstanding student.”

On Javan Gail: “One of our best defensive backs. We’re lucky to have him. He can probably play quarterback, which will have to investigate a little bit.”

Santa Barbara High Football

Coach Stone on defensive players Steve Lara and Robert Nava: “They played a big part of our defense against Lompoc. Our defense played a really good game. These kids played lights out the whole game.

On Nava: He plays multiple positions for us on the field. He’s one of those kids that will come up to you and say, ‘Coach, I can play anywhere you want me.’”

San Marcos Football

Coach Jason Fowle on senior defensive end/punter/back QB Andrew Aragon: “We moved him to inside linebacker and he did a tremendous job (against Dos Pueblos). He made about 12 tackles. It seemed like every time we had a positive play on defense, Andrew was there.” 

On junior Alejandro Martinez: “He saw his first varsity action on Friday — he goes from the scout team from starting at nose tackle. He’s been working his tail off. I was happy for him to get in there and make a difference.”

Bishop Diego Football

Athletic Director and assistant football coach Dan Peeters, speaking for coach Tom Crawford on Max Li: “He defines the word courage.” Said Peeters: “Max did not participate in the summer programs. He got back (from China) just before our first game. We were working out in the weight room and Max walks in, and you would’ve thought that Elvis had entered the building. The amount of passion and energy and love that he brings to our community is tremendous.”

Peeters on Matthew Bribiesca: “Matthew is in his first year in our program, and he has made an impact immediately. He hasn’t played football since his freshman year but he is a very good football player in all aspects of the game. Coach Crawford notes, he’s perhaps our most impactful defender this year. He’s fast and determined to make plays.”

Dos Pueblos Boys Water Polo

Coach Connor Levoff on senior captain Kyle Faison: “He’s been a big player for us the last couple of years, especially in big games and big spots. He’s a standout in the classroom both GPA and test-wise. He’s considering attending the U.S. Naval Academy amongst other prestigious academic options at this point.”

On senior Wyatt Meckelborg: “He kick-started our offense at San Marcos, had three goals in first half to really set us up for a big lead, which was something we’re not expecting to have at San Marcos. He does a lot of the dirty, unseen work for us, so it’s nice to see him get on the scoreboard and get on the end of some good shots.

Wyatt is a three-year starter and over the last three years has played the most minutes of anybody on our team without maybe getting much of the acclaim. He plays an important role and I really appreciate it.”

Bishop Diego Girls Volleyball

Coach John Sener on Taylor Pate: “Taylor has made us a better volleyball team. Her energy, her effort and what she brings to the court every day is a gift for what we got and where we’re going.”

On Mary Harris: “She is having an incredible season for us. We wouldn’t be where we are without her. I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait to see what happens this week (in the playoffs).”

San Marcos Girls Volleyball

Coach Brown on senior outside hitter Jayne Wood: “She is one of the most self-less players we have on our team, because she’s all about team. She works hard and makes everybody around her better. She’s just been a gem in our program.”

On senior middle Kristine Fimlaid: “She had an ankle injury early in the season which put her off the court for three weeks, but she’s come back with a vengeance, just right before CIF to help us make a run.

UCSB Women’s Volleyball

Assistant coach Matt Jones on Rowan Ennis: “She missed last year because of an injury and having her back has been a big part of our offense being more balanced this year. She’s also leading our team in blocks per set.”

On captain Annie Hasselmann: “Annie is the kind of captain you dream about. She leads by example and makes our team better. Annie has actually turned into a hitter for us and has turned into an option.”

Luncheon Notes

UCSB men’s water polo took fifth at the MPSF Invitational at Stanford, finishing behind USC, UCLA, Cal and Stanford.

The Gaucho beat Golden Coast Conference teams Long Beach State and Pepperdine, improving to 6-0 against GCC foes.

“We’re 16-6 right now on the season, coming down the home stretch,” coach Wolf Wigo said. “We’re looking to finish the season strong and get to 20 wins and have a great year.”

SBCC’s women’s water polo team is 18-1 and 4-0 in the WSC. Returning All-American Emma Fraser is the state leader in goals with 76.

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