Westmont women’s basketball coach Kirsten Moore still had that glow of winning a championship when she stepped up to the podium at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon.
It’s a glow Moore has been wearing now for five straight years in the month of March.
“It never gets boring, actually,” she said of winning a record fifth Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament in a row. “This year, we don’t get picked to win our league and not only win our league but also win the conference tournament.”
The Warriors (27-3) did it with just eight players and without their leading rebounder from last year, who tore her ACL at the beginning of this season.
They’ll take a 14-game winning streak into next week’s NAIA National Tournament in Billings, Mont., where they expected to be a top seed in one of the four-team brackets. It will be Westmont’s 13th trip to nationals in the last 14 years.
Besides her team, Moore said her daughter, Alexis, is thrilled to be making the trip to Montana, where a snowstorm is forecast for Monday.
“My daughter’s excited because she loves building snowmen,” said Moore.
“Anyway, I’m not only really proud of what these ladies have accomplished but really looking forward to making a deep run in the tournament as we head out there.”
Moore introduced sophomore post player Kaitlin Larson and sophomore forward Sydney Brown.
Larson, an all-GSAC player as a freshman, anchors the defense in the paint.
“She’s not even 6-foot and she battles with the big ones in there. She’s so tough,” said Moore of the 5-foot-7 Larson.
On Brown: “Even though she tore her ACL, she was voted a team captain by her teammates, which says so much about her. And she really led with her voice and in other ways this year,” said Moore.
Westmont Men’s Basketball
Coach John Moore is taking the 26-5 Warriors to their sixth straight NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City next week. After falling in the GSAC Tournament semifinals, he is expecting a No. 2 seed when the pairings are announced on Wednesday,
Moore introduced junior point guard Abram Carrasco and senior forward Jordan Spaschak.
Carrasco, a JC transfer from Tucson, Ariz., made an immediate impact and was recognized as the GSAC Player of the Year, Westmont’s first conference MVP, according to Moore.
“I think one great indicator of how good a player is is how he plays once conference season starts. Brom averaged three-and-half points more in conference,” Moore said. “I imagine at the national tournament he’s going to score more points than in our conference.
“He’s been a gem, an incredible competitor; really a fierce attitude when it comes to the game and just made us better.”
After a fifth knee surgery, Spaschak played one game all season. But he earned the respect of his teammates and was named a captain of the team.
“That tells you how valuable he is,” said Moore.
In the game he played, Spaschak brought the house down when he made a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Magic Johnson-like baby sky hook across the key.
“What Jordan has done is all the things that happen in the locker room that need to happen for a great team to become a greater team,” Moore said. “I can’t say enough to him and thank him enough for all the leadership he’s provided for our team.”
Here is a rundown of the coaches’ comments on the athletes they brought to the luncheon.
Santa Barbara High Baseball
Coach Steve Schuck introduced senior shortstop and UCSB-bound Nick Oakley and senior starting pitcher Carter Park.
On Oakley: “Nick is basically the leader of the team. His work ethic is off the charts. The way he plays the game is absolutely unbelievable, it’s all grit, all motor all the time. He’s just the one that keeps the whole thing going.”
On Park: “The thing I love about Carter is his growth in the last year, and not just the physical growth but the mental growth, his composure. The way he handles himself in difficult situations, the way he’s learned how to get himself out of those difficult situations is trust in his teammates and the way he prepares himself.”
San Marcos Boys Volleyball
Coach Roger Kuntz brought some of the height in his line-up with 6-foot-4 Tyler Curt, 6-6 Will Pace and 6-6 Gideon Van Bogelen.
On Curt: “Tyler’s a two-year varsity player at opposite. He’s got a wicked arm swing and he really brings a lot of our motor to the volleyball court.”
On Pace: “Will is one of our captains this year he’s also a two-sport athlete — he was one of our bigs on the San Marcos Channel League championship basketball team. He’s one of our middles and is a ferocious hitter — he really is a ball bouncer and he’s really starting to come into his own.”
On Van Bogelen: “Gideon was also one of our bigs on the San Marcos basketball team and he’s another opposite left-hander.”
San Marcos Baseball
Coach Jacob Pepper brought senior Alex Moosebrugger and sophomore Joaquin Sandoval.
On Alex Moosbrugger: “He is just a kid of true character. I think he makes the right choices every time, no matter what. He’s a guy who I can count on at any time to kind of give me the pulse of the team, to give me his thoughts, to communicate. His composure is great. A lot of great things he offers to our team as a senior, that’s something that’s really, really important for chemistry. I appreciate that.”
On Sandoval: “He’s the motor of our team. He sprints to the plate every time. His job (as a catcher), he tries to beat the guy running down the baseline to first base. That’s rare. He’s an insane catcher and, yeah, we got some decent pitching, but we don’t ever talk about the guy who’s catching those guys. These guys are throwing plus-80 mile-an-hour pitches and it’s getting dark and this guy’s snagging every single one of them.”
Dos Pueblos Boys Tennis
Coach Laura Housinger brought her only two seniors on the squad, Pratik Gupta and Chris Schniepp.
“I have 25 players this year, 19 of which are either sophomores or freshmen, so we have only two major leaders this year and they are both our captains.
“Both of these guys are just great leaders and they always have great energy. They balance the goofiness with the professionalism on the court, which I think is kind of the epitome of our boys tennis team.
“If you ever came to watch a practice, we are half the time doing calculus problems and half the time playing tennis. So, we’re kind of a mixture of everything, which is awesome.”
Dos Pueblos Golf
Coach Dave De Heras has two seniors in Matt Pigatti and Sean Yamasaki.
“We got some great kids, probably one of the best years I’ve seen in terms of team chemistry,” he said. “Like all golfers are, it’s all optimism at this point, but we’re super excited to see how we do the season.”
Dos Pueblos Softball
Coach Mike Gerken introduced senior shortstop Sierra Laughner and senior center fielder Allison Gaspar. Both are four-year starters for the Chargers.
Gaspar sparked a comeback from a 3-0 deficit in a game against Burroughs at the Manlet Tournament in Simi Valley. The Chargers lost 6-4. She belted a triple in a 13-3 win against Golden Valley in its final tourney game.
Lochner made a web gem in an 8-0 Channel League win over Santa Ynez.
Gerken on Gaspar: “I got a little upset at the team. We were down 3-0 and reminded them in no uncertain terms that we’re here to play some softball. She came up and hit a triple almost right after that got us back into the game tied at three three. In game two, she led off with a double and hit it to the fence in her first at bat.”
On Lochner: “It was 1-0 (against Santa Ynez) and they had a runner on second and a ball was going right through the hole. She tracked that down and threw the girl out. You could just feel like the wind come out of their sails.”
Carpinteria Boys Tennis
The doubles team of Ian McCurry and Estban Zapata was introduced by Athletic Director Pat Cooney. The duo is 17-6 this season.
On McCurry: “Coach Charles Bryant says he is the mentor on the team and has really done a nice job bringing the younger players along.”
On Zapata: “Esteban is a quiet leader by example, showing the younger players how to do things and when to do things in the right way.
“These student athletes are also really involved in other school clubs and carry a heavy academic workload.”
Cooney, the baseball coach, introduced team leaders senior shortstop Jacob Macias and senior catcher Diego Hernandez.
On Macias: “Jacob suffered a broken ankle in football and still has the plate and the screws in his ankle and plays like he doesn’t have that in there. He produced four hits on Friday (in a win over Hueneme) out of the leadoff spot. He’s really been a stabilizer on the field.”
On Hernandez: “Diego is an example of self sacrifice because he’d probably rather be a middle infield guy. He’s a middle infield-sized person, but his heart’s way bigger so he’s our best catcher. An example of that was zero balls went to the backstop in our win against Hueneme, and it was a key to our success.”
Sports Information Director Ron Smith reported that Dan Yokubaitis, a former UCSB pitcher and a long-time prep baseball coach in town, is the new pitching coach for the Warriors. He replaced Tony Cougoule, who was hired by the Chicago Cubs.
The Warriors, coming off a four-game sweep of Menlo, are in first place in the GSAC with a 13-3 record.
“Every (GSAC) series we’ve won the first three and then lost the fourth one,” Smith said. “So, we were really excited to finally get that that series sweep. Our pitchers over the 32 innings (two 9-inning and two 7-inning games) gave up two earned runs, which tells you the work that Dan is doing with us.
“They’ve just been tremendous out there. Our starters pitched more than 25 of the 32 innings, so we hardly needed a bullpen for that time.”
Westmont plays a pair of doubleheaders this weekend at second-place Vanguard.
The Round Table paid tribute to the athletic trainers at the local high schools and colleges. Several trainers were in attendance.