After helping Santa Barbara High’s girls volleyball program win a CIF-SS title last season as a junior, Gracie Meinzer is leading the Dons on another successful season as a senior.
The setter/opposite hitter is making plays all over the court for coach Kirstin Hemp’s squad, which took over sole possession of first place in the Channel League last week with wins over Oxnard and San Marcos.
“She is just one of our most consistent players all the way around,” said Hempy at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table Press Luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe. “I never have to wonder of Gracie is going to show up. It’s always a given.”
Meinzer was honored as the female Athlete of the Week for her play in the wins over Oxnard and San Marcos.
“She has stepped up a ton this year. We had a lot of seniors graduate last year, so as a senior she has a lot of leadership,” said Hempy. “She’s also on the court all of the time, every single game: setting, blocking, hitting, she’s serving and digging. She does it all and she’s really steady. I appreciate that about her.”
Hempy also introduced outside hitter Emmy Werner and opposite Whitney Meister. The juniors played big roles in the Dons’ four-set win at San Marcos to sweep the season series against their crosstown rival.
Hempy said Werner “has that X factor, that ‘je ne sais quo,’” a quality that cannot be described. “She’s a stud; she is such an athlete. Emmy can just get the job done. She makes a way. That’s what we say as a coaching staff.”
Meister found her spot on the team at the opposite position and stepped up against San Marcos, putting away eight kills.
“It was fun to see it finally click,” said Hempy. “All the hard work she’s been putting finally came to fruition. She was third in kills against San Marcos and had some awesome blocks. And, she had the match-winning kill.”
The Dons have a busy week as they host Pacifica on Tuesday and Dos Pueblos on Thursday in league matches before hosting the two-day Tournament of Champions.
The 14-team field includes undefeated St. Francis of Mountain View, CIF-SS Division 1-ranked San Clemente, Newport Harbor, Buchanan of Clovis North Clovis and Rancho Solano of Arizona.
“It’s really going to be high level volleyball,” said Hempy.
Santa Barbara, San Marcos and Bishop Diego are the local teams entered.
Assistant coach Teslin LeMaster introduced Devyn Brunet and Kate Edgar as two players who’ve made big contributions to the Royals’ success this season.
“Devyn has had some really key blocks and kills in our really competitive games against Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara. She is a tremendous team player,” said LeMaster.
The coach called Edgar “defensive dynamite” as at opposite and middle blocker.
“I’m impressed by her dedication and commitment to defense and working in the back row. She’s a phenomenal all-around player,” said LeMaster.
Despite the loss to Santa Barbara last week, LeMaster said the Royals played some of the best volleyball that, as coaching staff, we’ve seen them play.”
Senior Lola Hall and junior Sarah Woodhouse are the 1-2 punch for the 9-3 Owls.
“In reality, I bought our two best and most experienced players,” said coach Jason Donnelly as he introduced Hall and Woodhouse. “When I think about these two, I think about their versatility. They play just about every position for us
“In a world of specialization, these girls are six-rotation kids, they’re passing, they’re hitting from the back row.”
He noted in a match against Thacher that the starting setter got hurt, and Woodhouse took over and was key to the team’s Frontier League victory on the road.
Coach Megan O’Carroll cited the dedication and selflessness of Betsy Squires and Eliana Frankenfield.
The players suffered season-ending injuries but continue to come to practices, meetings and matches.
“They made a commitment to the program and their teammates,” said O’Carroll. “They come to every single practice, every match. They’re at every single team function.
“They are some most selfless people I’ve ever met. I want them to be celebrated today for their contributions to our program. Their spirit and heart are every part of our success so far.”
Coach Dillan Bennett is pleased with the improvement of juniors Abby Garcia an Avi Gordon.
“Abby plays in the role of libero and has played well,” Bennett said in a statement read by golf coach MeLinda Matsumoto. “Her serving, serve receive and passing has kept us in matches.”
Bennett said Gordon is starting to turn up her game at the middle blocker position. She led the team in blocks over the weekend at the La Reina Quad.
“We’ve been patiently waiting for her to mature in this role. Last weekend was a sign of good things to come,” said Bennett.
The Warriors have received good play for libero Ashlee Mora and setter Alexiana Jaimes.
In a statement from coach Greg Novak, he said Mora “is fierce and very competitive. Her defense is a key component to the success of her team.”
On Jaimes, he said it’s been “really fun to watch her setting and defensive skills progress to assist the team.”
Coach Nicole Welch was excited about her team’s two five-set wins on the road to start Big West play. The Gauchos won at UC San Diego and UC Irvine.
She said UCSD had a record crowd of 2,000.
“We found ourselves in a battle and it was really good for us.”
Megan Shimoda sent the Triton fans home disappointed as she reeled eight straight points in the fifth set with her top-spin jump serve. The Gauchos won the set 15-4.
“That was just phenomenal because it’s really hard to go back there and serve jump serve after jump serve after jump serve,” said Welch.
UCSB won the fifth set against UC Irvine 15-10, rallying from a 13-10 deficit.
“It was really cool down the stretch to see our team’s composure and confidence, and be so steady in those critical moments,” said Welch.
The coach praised Tallulah Froley for equaling her career high of 18 kills in each match. Middle Niableu Correal had a career-best nine blocks and libero Peed Macall had career-high 30 digs against UCSD.
The Gauchos host Cal Poly on Friday in a 7:30 p.m. match that will be televised on ESPNU.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever been picked up on that,” said Welch. “We’d love to see you there, but if you can’t, turn it on and let’s get the viewership up on that. That would be huge for volleyball and that will help us out.”
After sweeping its two opponents last week to improve to 11-3 on the season, the Westmont women’s volleyball team will have to deal with some weird scheduling this weekend.
On Friday, they play at San Diego Christian and return home following the match to play a 5 p.m. home match against Life Pacific.
“It’s a brutal schedule,” said coach Ruth McGolpin. “One of the players asked why do we have that schedule. I said because no one cares about us anymore because we’re going to D2 (NCAA Division 2).”
Santa Barbara High
Coach J.T. Stone told his players they had to “gas out” and not leave anything in the tank if the Dons were going to beat Rio Mesa in their Channel League football game last Friday night.
The Dons gutted out a 7-6 victory in overtime, stopping a Rio Mesa 2-point conversion try to take the win.
“I told the kids they had to play uncomfortable, to take themselves to levels they haven’t gone to before,” said Stone.
Senior free safety Andrew Tobin and linebacker Murphy Cisneros played lights out for the Dons.
Stone said Tobin could not walk at the end of the game. On the 2-point conversion, he made the initial hit on the Rio Mesa running back before his teammates swarmed to keep him out of the end zone.
“He busted his butt this game to make sure we got the W,” said Stone of Tobin, who was named the male Athlete of the Week.
Cisneros has developed to become one of the best defensive players on the team.
“If you saw him as a freshman, there was nothing about him that said football,” said Stone. “Until he decided to become a football player, he spent every day in the weight room. He’s by far one of the best defensive players we have on our team, and it is strictly through hard work.”
The Dons (5-1, 3-1) have a bye this weekend. They’ll be back in action next week against winless Channel Islands.
The Royals are coming off their bye week and play at Ventura on Friday night.
Coach Ralph Molina said seniors Adrian Alaniz and Carlos Gomez are two players who made great improvement over the last year.
Alaniz plays tight end and defensive end.
“We’re hoping for big things from him in the second half of the season,” said Molina.
Gomez, a starting defensive end and offensive tackle, put in the work in the weight room and led the team during its offseason weight training.
“He’s one of the nicest, hardest-working kids I’ve known,” said Molina.
The bye gave the Royals a chance to get healthy for the rest of the league season. They are 0-3 in league, 2-3 overall.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Molina said. “That’s our goal. We really want to finish strong in the second half.”
Coach AJ Pateras said outstanding kicker Greg Tripathi has been an inspiration to the other players on team.
“Watching him take that individual role like kicking and meld that into our team, you’re starting to see guys take pride in special teams,” said Pateras. “Greg is influencing back-ups and young guys who are trying to get on the field.
“It’s pretty special to watch a high-caliber player like him perform the way he’s performing.”
Tripathi kicked 50- and 36-yard field goals in the Chargers’ 27-0 win at Channel Islands. He missed on a 57 yarder.
Pateras is happy to see Naythan Bojorquez back on the field. After a positive sophomore year as a running back, he suffered a back injury during his junior season.
He was moved to defensive end this season and is thriving.
“He’s been super consistent and is playing great football at his position,” said Pateras.
The Chargers (3-3, 1-3 in league) play Oxnard in their homecoming game on Friday night.
Athletic Director Matt Steinhaus said Carson Stewart and Michael Wong were instrumental in the Owls beating Animo Robinson 38-18 in their 8-man football game on Saturday.
The pair combined for five touchdowns, with Wong scoring on a rush, a pass reception and a punt return. Stewart caught two passes for scores.
“They are also key members of our basketball team,” said Steinhaus. “They’re playmakers, they’ve got great hands. They were huge on Saturday.”
Laguna Blanca (2-2) hosts New Designs University Park on Saturday.
Coach Craig Moropoulos said the best thing to come out of Saturday’s record-setting 86-0 win over L.A. Southwest wasn’t the score.
“It really didn’t matter what the score was. I just wanted to make sure our guys played hard for four quarters, whoever was in the game,” he said. “That was rewarding for me.”
The coach introduced two standout players, linebacker Amir Brown and running back Brandon Smith.
“Amir Brown is fast becoming a catalyst for our defense. The guy runs around and makes plays, and that’s what you like on defense,” said Moropoulos
He said Smith is “arguably one of the finest running b backs I’ve coached in 17 years.”
Smith rushed for 109 yards on eight carries and scored two TDs last Saturday. He had 152 yards on 17 carries the previous week against West L.A.
SBCC (3-1) is at Glendale on Saturday night.
Marilyn Hantgin said senior Leland Sutter is one of the Royals’ top five runners and brings energy and spirit to the squad.
“He gets the team going,” she said.
Senior Bryan Edgar, the No. 1 runner, set a PR of 16:23 at the Raider Invitational.
“His leadership style is showing what commitment and hard work looks like and the respect that comes from just that,” said Hantgin.
She called Shaina King the glue of the team.
“Everyone looks up to Shaina. She’s supportive, the heart and soul of the program.”
King is the lone senior on the girls varsity team.
Senior Annie Knecht had a strong showing in her cross country debut for the Dons at the Raider Invitational, running 19:52 to finish 12th in the varsity girls grace.
Assistant coach Moki Nacario also introduced senior Jack Garcia, junior Bode Andrulaitis from the boys team and freshman Ailey Alexander who clocked 20:25 in the varsity girls race.
Curel Bautista is devoted to teamwork, determined to always improve and an extremely dependable team leader,” said coach Noe Gomez.
From the boys team, he said top runner Joel De Lira is committed to getting better.
“He is hungry for success and eager for any opportunity through which he can improve as a cross country athlete,” said Gomez.
Micks Purnell, coach of the girls team, said Sophie Saleh and Reese Wahlberg are part of the team’s leadership group and the pink sock group.
“It’s easy to find them,” he said.
He said Wahlberg is returning from a broken collarbone she suffered while doing her other passion, equestrian sports.
Purnell noted that Wednesday’s Channel League meet at Lake Casitas is expected to be moved to 7:30 a.m. due to temperatures expected to be in the 90s.
Coach David Jackson of the boys team introduced Dominic Corral as “the glue of my team.”
Sophomore Eamon Gordon, a sophomore who won the Raider Invitational, “is showing tremendous strength and is having a history of strong performances at DP. I anticipate we’re looking at someone that’s gong to write himself into the record books on the all-time great list,” said Jackson.
First-year coach Santiago Segovia said junior Danica Damiani and sophomore Natalie Schweitzer are laying the foundation for a bright future for the program.
Damiani “plays singles and is always ready to support her teammates,” said Segovia.
He said Schweitzer is “one of my most flexible players.”
Laguna Blanca is 3-1.
Ariana Lounsbury, a three-sport star for the Warriors, is 30-0 in doubles.
“She is a fantastic all-around athlete and reads the game really well,” said coach Charles Bryant.
Zahara Porinsh is a four-year starter and the No. 1 singles player for Carpinteria. Her record is 21-9.
Coach Danny Echt said it is a building year for the Dons (9-4).
“Half of our team are sophomore or younger. We’ve got a very positive growth mindset and the girls are working hard and having a great time doing it,” said
He introduced senior Charlotte Ryan and sophomore Caitlyn Buist who are 13-0 this season in doubles.
“They are fierce competitors. Both have incredibly solid fundamentals and are a pleasure to coach,” said Echt.
The Royals are led by juniors Fia Torrey and Riley O’Brien, who are part of a group that have been together since freshman year.
“They have been pacing the program since they joined us. Both these girls are super consistent, focused and continue to be the leading scorers for the team,” said coach Sarah Ashton.
Coach MeLinda Matsumoto said Delany Ball and Layla Ramirez are the top players for the Cardinals.