March Madness comes to Westmont’s Murchison Gym this week as the Warriors plays host to the men’s and women’s Golden State Athletic Conference basketball tournaments.
Westmont won the right to host both tournaments as its teams won the GSAC regular season titles. This is the first year the regular season champions were rewarded with tournament host sites. The venues were predetermined in the past.
“For us to win that outright was an incredible accomplishment for our small but mighty Warriors,” said Westmont women’s coach Kirsten Moore at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe. “We’re looking forward to having a home-court advantage, and that’s where this whole community comes in. We really hope that this community will come up and support us and the men.”
The tournament starts Thursday with quarterfinal games, with the semifinals on Friday and championship games on Saturday.
As the No. 1 seeds, the Westmont men’s and women’s teams receive first-round byes and will begin play in the semifinals. The women take the floor at 3:30 p.m. and the men play at 7:30 p.m.
Moore set up a plan to make a fun-filled day and evening.
“Come watch the 3:30 game with the women then go have some dinner then come back and watch our men play,” she said.
“For us, this is the most exciting time of the year. It’s March, we’re still playing basketball — we love that. And, this is typically when we’ve been our best even though we’ve had to go on the road all these years. Last year, we made history by being the first team ever, men’s or women’s, to win four straight GSAC Tournaments. No one had ever done that and we were underdogs some of those years. We’re looking forward to extend that streak and try to win a fifth straight here.”
Said Westmont men’s coach John Moore, whose team is 26-4 and ranked No. 6 in the NAIA: “The season really begins now. We have the league tournament, the national tournament in Kansas City. We’re very, very excited about the possibilities.”
The Westmont men will play Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between Arizona Christian and William Jessup.
Moore introduced 6-foot-7 freshman Solomon Davis, who was coming of the best game of his college career, a 15-point, nine-rebound performance at Hope International last Saturday.
“He really helped us be great,” said Moore.
Here is a rundown of the coaches comments on the athletes they brought to Monday’s luncheon
Santa Barbara High Baseball
Coach Steve Schuck introduced senior pitcher Eamon Burke and junior pitcher Luke Wechsler.
On Burke: “He got into his first game against Ventura and pitched an inning and two thirds. He struck out four of the seven faced. His debut was pretty special.”
On Wechsler: “Luke started off on JV. We wanted to see what he’d be like under pressure, so we brought him into a couple of practice games. He pitched kind of a bridge from our starter to our closer and he’s been doing tremendous.”
Santa Barbara High Track & Field
Assistant coach Moki Nacario said sprinter Jake Knecht and jumper Mila Speeer are part of the sophomore-junior class that will scoring the majority of the points for the Dons this season.
San Marcos Softball
Jeff Swann brought two of his talented freshmen, Gigi Gritt and Bella Cruz
On Gritt: “This is our future. She plays shortstop, has incredible range, plays great defense, great glove and she is our No. 2 hitter. She’s putting the bat on the ball and making things happen. She pitches, too.”
On Cruz, a second baseman: “The way you see her in practice, she’s really relaxed and calm and you don’t think she’s going to get there. But as soon as the ball is hit, she’s covering first base on a bunt, she’s turning double plays. She’s so quick to the ball, she has great intuition and she’s on top of it.”
Bishop Diego Baseball
Coach Nick Katzenstein introduced Chase Gutierrez and Devin Goodwin.
On Goodwin: “Devin is the first one to the field every day. He’s ready to go, he’s motivated, he’s been working his tail off. He’s worked extremely hard this year to get into baseball shape and has started every game playing first base. He’s hitting .263 with a double and four RBI.”
On Gutierrez: “ He comes to the field every day to get after it. He spends countless extra hours in the batting cage and getting ground balls — putting in that extra work.”
San Marcos Baseball
Coach Jacob Pepper brought juniors Aiden Johnson and Henry Manfredonia.
On Johnson: “One of the most athletic guys on our team. We knew he was going to do a lot of good things for us this year on the varsity level. He’s part of our pitching crew and runs the outfield really well.”
On Manfredonia: “Henry pitches for us, plays outfield, first base, DH, wherever we need him. He pitched a complete game on 75 pitches, 10 ks, maybe 4 hits, one run. He really got on his game. He hadn’t found himself in his earlier appearances this year, but was really working every pitch and the confidence was gaining. And that’s a great thing heading into our first league game this Friday at Santa Barbara.”
Bishop Diego Track & Field
Coach Aaron Skinner said the team has 33-34 athletes out this season. He introduced sprinters Jared Ramirez and Marisa Mancinelli.
“They’re both willing to share their ideas and things that worked for them last year and things that didn’t,” he said. “They’re both very coachable and both great leaders.”
Dos Pueblos Baseball
The Chargers finished 3-1-1 in the Easton Tournament. Coach George Hedricks brought senior captains Nate Feldhaus and Cole Philip.
On Feldhaus: “Nate is a team captain and a reliable kid. He’s always been that way since we’ve had him. He’s really starting to come into his own as a senior.”
Cole Philip: “For infielders, having a 6-foot-4 first baseman is a good problem to have … not too many balls get over his head.”
Bishop Diego Softball
Coach MeLinda Matsumoto introduced her battery of pitcher Amy Mancinelli and catcher Jenna Hayes.
“I appreciate the fact how they lead the team. I appreciate their attitudes and their efforts every day,” she said.
Carpinteria Track & Field
Coach Van Latham said he has 115 kids out for the team, the most the program has had in a couple of decades. He introduced senior twins Shayla and Savannah Alvarez, senior Kameron Dayka and junior Vincent Rinaldi, who was named the Athlete of the Week.
On the Alvarez twins: “They’re long jumpers and triple jumpers. They go neck and neck all of the time. They’re both very competitive with each other and are excellent students. They have a combined GPA of 8.5.”
On Dayka: “A long jumper and triple jumper, he’s very dedicated to his craft. He’s one excellent student with a 4.4 GPA.”
On Rinaldi: “He’s one of three Rinaldis on the team. His older brother, Victor, is a senior, and his twin, Caesar, is also a sprinter on the team. Vincent was league champion in the 100 and 200 and he set the sophomore record in the 100. We have a lot of great things ahead of him.”
Dos Pueblos Softball
Coach Mike Gerken’s team is 0-3 to start the season, playing against some tough opponents like Buena, Newbury Park and Agoura.
“We’re trying to repeat as league champions, so we set ourselves up with a very tough preleague schedule,” he said.
He introduced freshman third baseman Bella Nuño and senior pitcher Ali Borden.
On Nuño; “Softball in this town always has some kind of impact freshman and right now we’ve got three impact freshmen. Right now, Bella is making the biggest impact. She’s 3 for 6 with two doubles and is a crafty little third baseman.”
On Borden: “She’s going to do the majority of the pitching for us this year. Last year, she was our No, 2 and it was great position for us to be in to have such a high quality No. 2. She’s one of our best hitters, and in the circle she really takes command and knows what she’s doing and knows the strike zones. We’re really going to rely on her this year to make us successful.”