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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 10:37 am | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 
Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
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Round Table Press Luncheon: San Marcos Girls Water Polo Got Inspired by Olympic Champion

The San Marcos seniors end their prep water polo careers as CIF-SS champions. They are, from left: Piper Smith, Sarah Owens, Lili Rose Akin, Sophie Trumbull and Jaymie Stryker. Click to view larger
The San Marcos seniors end their prep water polo careers as CIF-SS champions. They are, from left: Piper Smith, Sarah Owens, Lili Rose Akin, Sophie Trumbull and Jaymie Stryker.  (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

When it came to playing in a CIF water polo final, San Marcos girls coach Chuckie Roth figured it would be the usual scenario: a battle against one of the powerhouse teams from Orange County played in their backyard.

“I’ve always pictured it we’re going to Orange County to play Laguna Beach, Corona del Mar, Foothill or someone like that,” he said at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon. “You don’t think you’re going to play your Channel League rival up the street.”

Roth’s Royals won an epic, 4-3, battle against top-seeded Dos Pueblos for the Southern Section Division 1 title before a huge crowd on Saturday at the Elings Aquatic Center on the DP campus. It was San Marcos’ first-ever title in girls water polo.

“That game is really hard for us — every year that game is hard for us,” Roth said. “You’re playing against not these mortal enemies you have 2 1/2 hours away that maybe you know something about, you’re playing against your friends, you’re playing against your teammates from your club environment. There’s so much emotion that goes into that.”

Even though there was so much at stake, Roth told his team, “Our first goal was to have class and character and that’s because we care about our relationships; on how we present ourselves and the relationships we have with other people in our community.”

He found it funny that this team was the first in the last seven years at San Marcos to not win 20 games (they were 18-11 going into the final) and it was playing for the CIF title.

“We laughed about that,” he said. 

He acknowledged the great season Dos Pueblos had. The Chargers went 29-2.

“What they did this season was great. We just happened to be the better team that night,” he said.

Before the playoffs began the Royals got a valuable lesson on being great in the big moment from Roth’s good friend,  Olympic gold medalist Jason Lezak.

Lezak swam the greatest anchor leg in Olympic history at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China. In the 4x100 freestyle final, he came from behind and edged 100 freestyle world-record holder Alain Bernard of France at the wall to give the Americans the gold medal and make Michael Phelps the first eight-time gold-medal winner in one Olympics.

Said Roth: “A couple of weeks ago, Jason Lezak comes in and says: ‘You don’t have to be the best team, just on any given day you can be the best.’ I think our girls took that to heart. We went down and beat Laguna Beach because we were the best that day. We played Mater Dei, we happened to be the best that day. We happened to be the best that day against Dos Pueblos. So it’s a really special thing.”

Roth introduced five special seniors that helped the Royals through their tremendous playoff run: Sophie Trumbull, Sarah Owens, Lili Rose Akin, Piper Smith and Jaymie Stryker. 

Trumbull, the goalie,  is “the backbone of our defense. The last three games she played phenomenal,” he said.

Roth said Owens hadn’t scored in the two previous playoff games. “Then she had a great goal against DP on Saturday.”

Of Akin: “She’s all heart. She scored the game winner against Laguna Beach with less than a second left and had a great goal against Mater Dei.”

He called Smith “a special one,” adding, “She will kill herself out there for her teammates. She leaves it all on the field.”

He said Stryker has been a great source of inspiration for the team. Sidelined with two bad shoulders, she served as an assistant coach at road game. She got into a game at Buena this season and scored five goals.

BASKETBALL

San Marcos

In was a big day for San Marcos at the press luncheon. Senior center Jackson Stormo of the boys basketball team was named the Athlete of the Week and coach Landon Boucher was there to talk about in the CIF 2A Division championship game against Riverside Poly on Saturday at Azusa Pacific University.

Boucher said Stormo and the seniors have led the way for the Royals, who are in the finals for the first time since 1990.

“In the fall, (Chuckie) said something that stuck with me: You’re only going to go as far as your seniors take you. Our seniors have really taken us far,” said Boucher.

On Stormo: “That guy is leading the way along with the five other seniors.”

Providence

Coach Steve Stokes took the opportunity to thank his five seniors for raising the program to a higher level. The group of Bryan Sheets, Caleb Johnson, Chase Avery, Evan Boger and Nick Butler won 70 percent of their games in four years. The program had only winning season prior to them arrving on campus.

The Patriots also won three straight league titles with undefeated records, was ranked in the top 10 every week in the CIF Polls and reached three straight quarterfinals.

They went 21-3 this past season and fell to Foothill Tech in the quarterfinals. Foothill Tech advanced to the CIF 5AA final.

UCSB Men

Assistant coach Louis Reynaud said the Gauchos are in “Championship Week.”

The play home games against Long Beach State (Thursday) and Cal Poly (Saturday), with a shot at tying for the regular season title in the Big West with UC Irvine and UC Davis. 

He noted the team may get a key player back on Thursday.

“That will be a help for us going into the last week and the Big West Tournament.”

Westmont Women

Sports information director Ron Smith reported that the Warriors won their fourth Golden State Athletic Conference in seven years and are looking to repeat as GSAC Tournament champs.

The Warriors will play a semifinal game on Friday at Arizona Christian, the venue for the tournament.

Westmont Men

Coach John Moore said his team is ready to turn the page and begin the postseason. 

“It’s all about the seniors,” he said. “Our seniors have had a great career. This group of four have won 92 games and counting.”

The foursome is looking to become the first Westmont group to go to the NAIA National Tournament four years in a row.

The Warriors head to the GSAC Tournament after going 11-3 in conference play. They are 22-6 overall and ranked eighth in the NAIA.

Moore gave a shoutout to Boucher, one of his former players. 

“He played at Westmont, but all the credit comes from what he’s done,” Moore said. “It’s not a lot of what we did to instill in him… maybe just a smidgen."

Moore was impressed at not only how the Boucher's Royals play the game but how they conduct themselves.

“The character in that team is directly related to the coach who is teaching and coaching that team,” he said.

SOFTBALL

UCSB

Assistant coach Kacee Cox said the team has only 16 players, but that’s a good number to work with. The young players are stepping up really well.”

The Gauchos head to a tournament in Florida this weekend for five games.

San Marcos

Coach Jeff Swan said he’s followed the model Roth put together to build the girls water polo program into a CIF power.

“We started with an O-and-forever program,” Swan said. “We’ve developed infrastructure, we’re getting players now; two years ago went to the quarterfinals, last year we went to the finals. We’re hoping we can complete the deal this year.”

He has some solid players coming back, including catcher Morgan Jensen and center fielder Claire Early.

Swan called Jensen “a rock behind the play, something we’ve missed for may years.”

On Early: “She’s super speedy. She likes me to cut her loose on the bases.”

He said team looked impressive in its recent scrimmages.

“We really like where we’re headed,” he said.

COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL

UCSB

The Gauchos split a pair of five-set matches last week, losing to Pepperdine and coming back got beat UC San Diego in the first-ever Big West match.

“We were happy how the guys responded after the five-game loss,” said assistant Vince Devany,

SBCC

Coach Jon Newton said Santa Barbara High alum Kyle Skinner “is a rock on our team. The stuff this kid does in the gym is just amazing. He leads the team by example, is motivated and drives the guys to succeed.”

Skinner has committed to Ohio State.

Newton has several local players on the squad, which is off to a 5-1 start. The others include Cameron Fry and Adam Shields (Dos Pueblos), Blake Lockhart (Santa Ynez), Austin Lind and Sterling Clerx (Santa Barbara High).

BASEBALL

SBCC

Coach Jeff Walker said the team is in the top 10 in runs scored, has a slugging percentage of over .400 and has hit 11 home runs. 

“We should be 15-0 with the pitching staff we lined up. Unfortunately, our pitching staff has an ERA of about six.”

Walker had some unconventional ideas to improve the pitching performances.

“I stopped by Paradise Lost, the voodoo, zen shop. I’m going to put sage and dragon blood in our bullpen, give our pitchers rocks.”

He then added: “Things are looking up. I think we’ll be fine.”

Westmont

The Warriors have already played 19 games and are 12-7.

“We’ve been relatively inconsistent,” coach Robert Ruiz said. “I think we’re better than how we’re performing right now, but we’re still finding a way to win games and conference games.”

Two players who have led the way in the early season are senior Michael Stefanic and junior Luke Coffey.

Stefanic, a second baseman, has been a four-year starter. He recently broke the school career hits record of 222.

“He’s been a huge impact in our program,” said Ruiz.

Coffey, a Dos Pueblos alum, is hitting .477 and has five home runs. 

“He’s a consistent contributor for us in the middle of the lineup,” said Ruiz.

UCSB

Coach Andrew Checketts just returned from Corpus Christi, Texas, where his team went 1-2 in a tournament. 

“The good news for our team is we are undefeated at home,. The bad news is we played only one game,” he cracked.

After a midweek game at Fresno State, the Gauchos will be home for 21 of their next 22 games.

“We’re bit of a work in process,” Checketts said. “We got some talented players, we got some inexperience in some spots, and they keep hitting to those inexperienced guys when the game is on the line. We’re still trying figure out who to play, when to play them and where to play them.”

Thomas Rowan, a Santa Ynez High alum, is off to a great start, hitting .400. Clay Fisher, one of the best defensive shortstops in the country, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery on his elbow ligaments, but he’s contributing at the plate as a designated hitter. He’s hitting over .300.

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