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Who to Watch During the Winter Season of Prep Sports

Ryan Fidel leads a strong Dos Pueblos wrestling team; Santa Barbara boys soccer returns several key players from CIF Division 1 finalist team; San Marcos girls soccer has 4 college-bound seniors; DP girls basketball loaded with experience

Ryan Fidel of Dos Pueblos is a two-time Channel League champion and CIF-Southern Section place finisher. Click to view larger
Ryan Fidel of Dos Pueblos is a two-time Channel League champion and CIF-Southern Section place finisher. (John Sachs photo)

The 2016-17 winter sports season brings new line-ups for several local high school teams.

While many of the names and faces will be new to followers of prep sports, a few of the old guard remain to provide experience, leadership and show the young-uns how to get it done during crunch time.

Noozhawk has put together a Who-to-Watch list to help you become familiar with many of the standout newbies and veterans this winter.

Here is a sport-by-sport rundown of the players to watch this season.

Boys Basketball

Santa Barbara High returns just one starter from that incredible team that won the school’s first CIF-Southern Section title since 1991. The Dons are counting on the experience and three-point shooting of Ben Brown to keep their winning way going.

“We have a lot of guys who do not have a lot of experience but we are looking forward to the season and being able to see what they can accomplish together,” said assistant coach Joseph Bregante.

Ben Brown is the lone returning starter from Santa Barbara High’s CIF championship team. Click to view larger
Ben Brown is the lone returning starter from Santa Barbara High’s CIF championship team. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk file photo)

San Marcos has a group of players who are ready to step up and make an impact. A key player is 6-foot-8 Jackson Stormo, who has made tremendous improvement since the off-season.

He’s led the Royals in scoring in most of its early-season game. “He will be a force inside for us this year,” said coach Landon Boucher.

Junior Stef Korfas takes over as the starting point guard in his second year on the varsity. Another veteran player who does a lot for the Royals is senior Thomas Hantgin.

Dos Pueblos has the most experienced squad with returners Diego Riker, Dylan Shugart, Thomas Jimenez, Cyrus Wallace and Marcellous Gossett, all seniors. Their familiarity of playing together will make the Chargers a serious challenger for the Channel League title.

Bishop Diego has senior sharp-shooter Mitchell Cota and junior Dylan Streett can score from the perimeter and muscle his way inside for baskets.

Carpinteria will rely heavily on senior guard Eli Correa.

Stef Korfas will run the show for the San Marcos basketball team, Click to view larger
Stef Korfas will run the show for the San Marcos basketball team, (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk file photo)

At Cate, sharp-shooting Marko Pliso enters his third season on varsity. He was a first-team all-league pick last season as a sophomore.

“I’m excited to see how it all comes together this season with his focus being on improving his defense,” said coach Andy Gil.

Gil said returning forward/center Mason Mackall has improved and will make an impact.

A highlight to the season for the Rams is a game against Albert Einstein Academy scheduled on the famed outdoor courts at Venice Beach on Feb. 4

Providence returns impact players Ricky Beebe, Caleb Jones and Bryan Sheets. Beebe, a force in the paint, was a second-team All-CIF selection last year. Jones is a point guard and defensive stopper. Sheets can bury the three-pointer and has speed and quickness to attack the basket.


Ryan Fidel, a two-time Channel League champion and a CIF placer, returns for his senior year at Dos Pueblos. Fidel is off to great start, going 5-0, with four pins, at the recent Corona del Mar Duals.

The Chargers have two other returning league champs in juniors Aidan Yamasaki and Erick Nisich. Lightweight sophomore Kade Uyesaka, middleweight senior Nolan Sullivan and upper weight senior Joel Garcia all qualified for CIF last season.

“We have a balanced team top to bottom,” said coach Anthony Califano.

Enthusiasm is high at Santa Barbara High. The Dons have a brand-new, cool-looking wrestling mat and a returning league champion in Josue Vallecillo.

Boys Soccer

Santa Barbara returns the bulk of its defense that helped the team reach the CIF Division 1 final. Center back Sloan Hanson was the Channel League MVP and a first-team All-CIF selection. Goalkeeper Paulie Santana earned all-league first-team honors and was third-team All-CIF.

On offense, coach Todd Heil is looking for a big year from Celso Lagunas. He’s off to a good start, scoring four goals in the first five games. Heil also expects big seasons from Juan Zarate and Owen Lambe.

Daniel Torres has San Marcos going in the right direction. His key players include midfielders Camilo Gonzagui and Avi Ghitterman. Gonzagui was a first-team all-leaguer last year. “We are looking to him for stability in the midfield,” Torres said.

Santa Barbara is looking for a big season from forward Celso Lagunas. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara is looking for a big season from forward Celso Lagunas. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk file photo)

On Ghitterman: “Avi is the smartest player we have on and off the field,” Torres said of the returning player who made second-team all-league. “He is greatly respected by his teammates and leads by example.”

Calvin Schipper brings experience and toughness on the back line for Dos Pueblos. “He has been an anchor for us for two years now,” said coach Matt York.

Sophomore Lucas Eilbacher is a speedy wing player and takes most of the free kicks. Junior forward Oscar Ferreira is the best distributor and finisher, York said. “He is smaller in stature but he plays pretty big on the field for us.”

Senior Ryan Borchardt is the engine of the attack at Cate. The athleticism, vision and soccer IQ make Borchardt “a truly complete player,” said coach Peter Mack. “He lifts his teammates up and leads by example.”

Senior captain and four-year starter Christian Herman anchors the defense at center back. “Christian is the consummate team player and, with Ryan, will be crucial to helping us mold a fairly inexperienced team,” Mack said.

Senior Juan Malaghaes brings Brazilian flair and creativity with the ball and sophomore Bailor Jalloh is a strong and skillful forward.

Laguna Blanca has a powerful forward in Ethan Tyng.

Girls Soccer

San Marcos returns four standouts from last year’s team that advanced to the CIF quarterfinals. Danielle Anderson was the Channel League Defensive MVP; she signed a letter of intent with Cal Polo. UC San Diego-bound Natalie Widmer, a solid defensive player, will see some time on the offensive side of the ball.

Danielle Anderson of San Marcos was the Channel League Defensive MVP last season. Click to view larger
Danielle Anderson of San Marcos was the Channel League Defensive MVP last season. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk file photo)

Chloe Hamer, headed to Pomona Pitzer, is a dynamic attacking player, and Pt. Loma signee Raynee Odell does a great job reading the game, combining with the attacking players and playing tough as the defensive midfielder. Another key player is Sierra Palladino, whose left foot is lethal on set pieces.

Kiara Pickett, who played for Team USA at the FIFA Under-17 World Championships in Jordan, will be an offensive force for Dos Pueblos. Her freshman sister, Kamila, will also be an impact player for the Chargers.

Junior captains Payton Wolf and Alissa Becerra are being counted on to organize and direct the Santa Barbara attack and defense.

Becerra, a three-year varsity player, will anchor the back line. “With so many new players this year, we really rely on her to organize the back line,” said coach Jill Wolf.

Payton Wolf, the coach’s daughter, “is a very versatile player and does a great job of directing and organizing our team on the field.  She will see time in a lot of positions for us this year,” said the coach.

Wolf is excited about junior Briana Rios and freshmen Sofia Garcia Capaletti and Mikayla Thoits.

Junior center midfielder Isabela Montes de Oca is the heart and soul of Cate’s team, said coach Lisa Holmes of the returning first-team all-Tri-Valley League player.

Three-year player Emily Burns anchors the Cate defense. Holmes is excited about junior goalkeeper Mari Espinosa, who steps into the starting spot after serving as a backup for two years.

Bishop Diego’s first-year coach Randy John Wilson said Jill Giannini and Natani Earle are creative offensive threats and Claire Nielsen and Anna Coronado are the defensive leaders. He added that freshman Julia Gregson should make an immediate impact.

The Dos Pueblos girls soccer team will have a potent attack with U.S. Under-17 player Kiara Pickett playing at forward. Click to view larger
The Dos Pueblos girls soccer team will have a potent attack with U.S. Under-17 player Kiara Pickett playing at forward. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk file photo)

Kelly Bickett not only makes things happen with her hands as a setter on the volleyball team she delivers with her feet on the soccer field.

“She is talented on the ball, commands the field and has great vision,” said coach Kevin Shertzer. Bickett, a junior, was the team’s leading scorer last year.

Shertzer said freshman striker Julia Guglielmo has a powerful shot and Jules Bernard is a tough defender. 

Girls Basketball

Santa Barbara High will go through a transition period after the graduation of all-time scoring leader Amber Melgoza, who is now at Washington.

Coach Andrew Butcher expects returning starters junior Cassandra Gordon and senior Kimberly Gebhardt to raise their scoring averages. Kristen Sullivan, a transfer from Ventura, steps in a point guard for the injured Alondra Jimenez. Anais Jimenez will be counted on to control the boards.

Camila Casanueva of Dos Pueblos is coming off an All-CIF season. Click to view larger
Camila Casanueva of Dos Pueblos is coming off an All-CIF season. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk file photo)

Dos Pueblos is loaded with experienced players. Quick and savvy Camila Casanueva, a four-year varsity starter, runs the show from the point. She recently earned MVP honors after leading the Chargers to the title at the Atascadero Ruth Doser Tournament.

Coach Phil Sherman also has Holly Barrera, Lauren Noggle and Amber Belletti returning to the starting line-up. They helped DP reach the CIF Division 2A quarterfinals last year. Barrera is a good outside shooter and Noggle and Belletti give DP a strong presence inside. Senior Kristina Mortimer is another scorer for the Chargers.

Junior Milan McGary leads the San Marcos attack. Her quickness and athleticism will give opponents fits. Versatile Kaitlynn Miller and Sierra Hearron will provide senior leadership.

Bishop Diego will be led by the athleticism of junior Kylie Koeper and the all-out hustle of senior Ann Bentajado.

At Cate, Amber Thiery is tough on the defensive end and will be looking to penetrate and score this year and Morgan Prinz will be a force in the paint, said coach Amy Venditta of her co-captains. Returning sophomore Sarah Polowczak provides speed and quickness for the Rams.

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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