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Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table

Press Luncheon: Laguna Blanca Invites Voters to CIF Semifinal Match

Football coaches celebrate making the playoffs

SBCC football coach Craig Moropoulos is joined by two of his local products: Russell Enholm, left, from Santa Barbara High, and Bishop Diego alum Abel Gonzalez. Click to view larger
SBCC football coach Craig Moropoulos is joined by two of his local products: Russell Enholm, left, from Santa Barbara High, and Bishop Diego alum Abel Gonzalez. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

The crazy election season comes to an end on Tuesday, and Laguna Blanca volleyball coach Jason Donnelly believes that will work in his team’s favor when it hosts Riverside-Woodcrest Christian in a CIF-Southern Section Division 6 semifinal match at Merovick Gym.

“It doesn’t get much better than that for us,” he said at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Café. “There’s some sort of big national event going on all day and I’m pretty sure the gym is going to be packed because a lot of people don’t really want to know what’s going on.”

Laguna Blanca is seeking its second straight CIF girls volleyball championship and third overall. Outside hitter Maddy Nicolson has been a force for the Owls during this year’s playoff run. She posted 15 kills in a second-round win over Pioneer and a team-high 17 in the quarterfinals at Hemet. They needed four sets to get past Hemet.

Donnelly said after a third-set loss, Nicolson, his only senior, got the team to refocus.

“As I was writing the lineup for the fourth game, I could hear 12 girls kind of talking over each other — that’s some times what teenagers do when they get stressed and nervous,” he said.  "I walk over there and Maddy says, ‘Okay everybody let’s be quiet… everybody take a deep breath.’

“They did it and she looked ay me and said, ‘Jason you can talk now.’ I didn’t even know what I was going to say. It was really cool, our lone senior was able to calm our team down.”

The semifinal match at Laguna is at 6 p.m.


Santa Barbara High: After learning his team lost the vote for an automatic CIF playoff berth on Friday night, Dons coach JT Stone said “it was very difficult and a hard pill to swallow for our kids” that Saturday morning.

But on Sunday, the Dons received word that they got an at-large berth in the Division 9 playoffs and will travel to Agoura for a first-round game on Friday at 7 p.m.

“We were fortunate that CIF got it right and we were voted into the playoffs,” he said. “We think we’re worthy of being in. “

He called Agoura (3-7) a sleeper team in the division. All three of its wins came in league.

Stone expressed his happiness that his players get the opporunity to play in the postseason. Santa Barbara hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2012.

“This is a good group of boys. We went through a lot this season, and these kids are very excited to be here,” he said.

SBCC: “We’re set up now to have a chance to play for a conference championship,” coach Craig Moropoulos said. The 7-2 Vaqueros host 9-0 L.A. Valley for the American Pacific League title on Saturday at 1 p.m. at La Playa Stadium.

Moropoulos introduced two local guys who played key roles in last Saturday’s 51-10 win at Pierce. Santa Barbara alum Russell Enholm had an interception and Abel Gonzalez from Bishop Diego ran for a touchdown.

Dos Pueblos: The 8-2 Chargers completed their best regular season since 2001, “but now we’re 0-0 and looking forward to our first playoff game on Friday,” said coach Nate Mendoza. They host Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo in a first-round game in Division 10. DP is the fourth seed in the division.

Mendoza brought three players who were instrumental in DP’s 28-21 win at Ventura that gave it a share of the Channel League title.

Michael Elbert had two interceptions and a touchdown reception in Dos Pueblos’ win at Ventura. Click to view larger
Michael Elbert had two interceptions and a touchdown reception in Dos Pueblos’ win at Ventura.

Michael Elbert, the Athlete of the Week, had two interceptions in the end zone and caught a touchdown pass. He has six interceptions on the season and seven touchdowns.

Tommy Johnson stepped to become an impact two-way player. “He’s a great example of what work ethic and resilience will do for you,” said Mendoza. Johnson made some huge tackles as a cornerback and some clutch receptions as a wide receiver in the Ventura game.

Marcellous Gossett added to his impressive defensive stats at Ventura. “He was causing havoc all game,” Mendoza said. Gossett has 17 sacks and 35 tackles for loss.  “Those are outstanding numbers. I haven’t seen anything like that as a football coach,” said Mendoza.

Bishop Diego: Athletic Director Dan Peeters announced that the Cardinals’ first-round Division 5 playoff game against Salesian is on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at La Playa Stadium.

He said Salesian (6-4) has a dangerous player in Deommodore Lenior, an Oregon commit.

“I’m the special teams coach and we will not be kicking to No. 9,” said Peeters.

He introduced three seniors who have been “everyday guys” on the football team for four years: defensive end Tyler Green, tackle Harrison Wilkinson and guard James Renick.

He said Green is a versatile and athletic player who has had a productive year; Wilkinson has made tremendous improvement in his career and Renick, the youngest of six brothers to play at Bishop, is a solid player.

The Cardinals enter the playoffs with a 7-3 record.

Carpinteria: Coach Ben Hallock praised the play and leadership of junior center/noseguard David Torres and middle linebacker Alejandro Martinez. He said Martinez is now the leading tackler on the team. Earlier in the season, it was the free safety leading in tackles.

“That’s one of the signs that we’re playing better,” said Hallock.

He noted the mojo and magic worked for Carpinteria to make the Division 12 playoffs after finishing second in the four-team Frontier League.

“We’re celebrating that,” said Hallock. “We played a lot of good people and played well at the end.”

The 4-6 Warriors will face 9-1 St. Genevieve on Friday night at Crespi High in Encino.

“We don’t match up with their speed. We have to match up with schemes and see if we can keep the football away from them,” Hallock said. “We’re going to celebrate every day in practice. We’ve told the guys anything can happen in the playoffs, and it does.”


Westmont women: Coach Kirsten Moore is not holding back in getting her team ready for the season. The Warriors played Pac 12 teams UCLA and Cal on the road last week.

“This year has the potential to be a pretty special year,” she said. “We return four starters from a team that was ranked No. 3 in country last year. In the preseason, we’re ranked No. 2.  As I scheduled for this season, I really wanted to challenge us. That’s why we played the teams we played last week.”

The Warriors are playing in tough tournament in Jackson, Tenn., that will include 13 teams in the NAIA top 25. They open against No. 1 and defending national champion Mid-American Nazarene and then play the No. 4 team.

“We have prepared for these high level teams, so we’ll be ready,” she said.

Westmont men: Coach John Moore said “it’s an exciting time to be at Westmont because we all want to be like the women’s volleyball team.”

The Westmont volleyball team just completed a perfect 31-0 regular season, and what’s impressed Moore is how the team plays with confidence and remains humble.

“It’s hard to do this, it’s hard to be confident and humble at the same time,” he said. “And they are exactly that. We aspire to be like that. We have 14 of 15 players returning, all our starters coming back and 10 players back from when we lost the national championship game two years ago.”

UCSB men: The Gauchos open their regular season Saturday at the Thunderdome against Nebraska-Omaha.

Assistant coach Brandon Veltri said senior point guard Eric Childress has done a great job mentoring the several new players to the program “and helping them in how we do business at UC Santa Barbara.”

Freshmen Christian Terrell and Clifton Powell were impressive in the exhibition game against Fresno Pacific and JC transfer Jalen Canty played well in the post.

Veltri said Canty, the California Community College Player of the Year last season at City College of San Francisco, has a similar body type to Alan Williams and plays a lot like the former Gaucho star, who is on the Phoenix Suns roster.

Providence boys: Coach Steve Stokes said playing against tougher competition during the offseason has made his team better.

“We feel we got a pretty good blueprint going forward,” he said.

The coach noted that post player Ricky Beebe and point guard Caleb Jones are the team leaders. Beebe was a second-team All-CIF selection last season.


Dos Pueblos: Coach Liz Frech said her team played its personal best in its Division 1 playoff loss against Fountain Valley.

She cited the play of freshman Mikala Triplett in singles and the doubles team of Rose Hillebrandt and Hannah Kleidermacher. Triplett beat a four-star recruit from Fountain Valley and improved to 33-10 on the season. The first-time doubles partners went 32-7.

Triplett and Katie Yang will represent DP at the CIF Sectionals in Carpinteria in two weeks.


UCSB men: The Gauchos host Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Tournament semifinals on Wednesday night at Harder Stadium. If they win, they would host the championship game on Saturday night.

Carpinteria: Assistant coach Lucy Carleton said the Warriors are coming off a rebuilding and are looking for good things from defender Alejandra Garcia and attacking midfielder Alejandra Alvarez.

Westmont: The Warrior men’s and women’s teams are playing in the GSAC Tournament semifinals on Thursday. The men face The Master’s at 2:30 p.m. and the women take on host Biola at 5. The finals are Saturday.

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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