UCSB women’s soccer
UCSB women’s soccer team members Mallory Hromatko,left, Maddie Gibson and Jessica Clegg joined coach Paul Stumpf at the Round Table press luncheon. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Jason Donnelly had been working to get Laguna Blanca into a more competitive league.

The school’s athletic director and girls volleyball coach finally got it done during the last CIF re-leaguing cycle. And now his team is playing in the Tri-Valley League with schools like Foothill Tech, St. Bonaventure, La Reina and Grace Brethren.

It’s a huge jump from the Condor League, where the Owls dominated.

“It’s one of those situations where you got to be careful what you wish for,” said Donnelly about the step up in competition during Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Cafe.

The Owls are going into the new league with an inexperienced team.

The program has a history of success, playing in six CIF-Southern Section finals since 2005, winning two titles and reaching a CIF state final in 2015.

“The way it is, the success we’ve had in the past, we are now having to duke it out with teams that are established and very, very good,” Donnelly said. “I think we’re pretty good but we’re a little green.”

The Owls should be prepared for the tougher TVL. They played against bigger schools at the Viewpoint Tournament in Calabasas over the weekend,

“I thought it was a small schools tournament. We walk into the gym and the first team warming up — who we play later in the day —they have 2500 students in the school and have four 6-3 kids on the team,” Donnelly said. “I’m saying to myself:  ‘I’m trying to get these kids comfortable and confident in their ability and here’s what I show them as soon as we walk into the gym — kids in the gym bouncing balls (off the wall).’

“Fortunately, our kids are tough and resilient,” he continued “We played some of our best volleyball this weekend against some of the best opponents we’ve faced.”

UCSB assistant coach Matt Jones gave a shoutout to former Santa Barbara High star Lexi Rottman for an incredible serving performance during a match at the Cal State Bakersfield Tournament. 

“She served 31 times (in a set). I’ve never seen that before,” said Jones of Rottman’s performance in a UCSB sweep of Montana. “She essentially won a set by herself, she had seven aces. She made all-tournament team as a server. I’ve never seen that before in my coaching career.”

The Gauchos (8-4) open Big West play Tuesday at the Thunderdome against UC Irvine.

Dos Pueblos coach Megan O’Carroll said a four-set loss against San Marcos brought her team back to reality after a six-match winning streak.

“We were taken down a notch and back to reality,” she said. 

On the positive side, “We were able to identify areas that are weaknesses and things we need to work on and improve on, so when we do see the Royals again in a couple of weeks, we’ll be ready for them,” she said.

The Chargers are 8-6 and 2-1 in Channel League.

San Marcos is playing at a high level. After the win at Dos Pueblos and a finals appearance at the Royal Tournament, the Royals are 12-4 and 3-0 in Channel League.

“We’re looking for great things from this team. We’re on the accelerator up,” said coach Tina Brown.

Bishop Diego coach John Sener said freshman setter Alina Urzua has blended well with a senior-dominated squad.

“She has showed she has the guts and fortitude to lead a senior-laden team.”

The Cardinals are 6-3 and 4-1 in the Frontier League.

Westmont coach Patti Cook said the recent loss at The Master’s “caught us by surprise. We’re definitely going to use it to learn and grow stronger. I think it’s going to light a fire under our hineys and remind us there are some really good teams in our conference and we’re going to have to fight and work and scratch and claw for everything that we want.”

The Warriors (11-2, 2-1 in the GSAC) play host to Vanguard on Friday, and Cook said it’s Blackout Night. “Wear black if you can make it,” she said.

Cook introduced senior middle Libby Dahlberg and junior outside hitter Cassidy Rea and announced they were recipients of prestigious NAIA National Awards.

Dahlberg won the Leroy Walker Champions of Character Award, the first Westmont student-athlete to receive the honor.

Rea became Westmont’s first recipient of the A.O. Duer Scholarship Award.

Here’s a recap of what the coaches said about the athletes they brought to the press luncheon.

Bishop Diego Girls Volleyball

Sener on senior libero Marynicole Ramirez: “This young lady plays the court like nobody’s business. She had 40 digs against Cate. The Cate coach came up to me said, ‘Were there two of them out there.’  She was everywhere. She’s just an incredible young lady to have on our team, a great leader and someone we love and appreciate.”

On senior outside hitter Lauren Holsted: “She’s a double-double machine. I can’t think of one match where she hasn’t had a double-double, with multiple kills and multiple digs in the back court. Lauren is like having a fifth-year senior. She’s that kind of volleyball player and that kind of leader on the court. You don’t have players like this very often in your world.”

San Marcos Girls Volleyball

Brown on junior middle Brynn Sofro: “She plays six rotations because she’s so good in the back row. She can hit back there and she can dig balls. She did some things this weekend I didn’t know she could do. The bar just got risen for her.”

San Marcos girls volleyball

The San Marcos girls volleyball team was represented by, from left: Kendall Williams, Grace Mathews, Brynn Sofro and coach Tina Brown. Sofro was the Athlete of the Week. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

On senior outside hitter Kendall Williams: “Against DP, she had her second and double-double, 12 kills, 14 digs, which is super studly. She’s a senior leading the team. She has great energy, we’re so happy to have her.”

On libero junior Grace Mathews: “As the libero, she has a big role, but she’s our little spark plug, too. She’s leading our team in aces and digs, and she’s leading our team with an awesome attitude. That got her lots of recognition from a lot of coaches and all-tournament honors last weekend as well.”

Dos Pueblos Girls Volleyball

O’Carroll on senior middle Ally Mintzer: “She’s been having a huge season for us. A couple fo 20-kill matches,18 kills, that was her norm at the beginning. She’s providing a lot of points for us on offense and is doing a great job setting up a big block.”

Laguna Blanca Girls Volleyball

Donnelly on junior outside hitter Audrey Murphy: “She is a tough kid, a smart kid and she’s super athletic.  She hasn’t realized how good she is yet, and once she does that’s going to take her game to the next level. It’s a matter of time when it clicks.”

On outside Macy Christal: “She’s played every position for us. Going into the season, we needed her to get comfortable on the left side. She’s a six-rotation kid, and Macy has done a nice job. She’s learning what it means to compete at the level we’re asking her to compete in. And once she locks it in mentally and physically, she’s just as good as anyone else out there.”

Santa Barbara High Girls Volleyball

Coach Ariana Garner on setter Ellie Chenoweth: “We took a set off a very good Hart High team (at the Royal Tournament), and one of the players who was instrumental in leading us to that victory was Ellie Chenoweth. She continues to run our offense and put our hitters in the best position possible.” 

On Avalon Gagnon: “In our game against Foothill Tech, Avalon came off the bench cold; we were down 19-24 and she ended up serving six serves in a row and we ended taking that match in five.”

Santa Barbara High Girls Tennis

Coach Danny Echt on senior Claudia Brewer: “She had a fantastic start in doubles. She’s 11-1. She’s taken it upon herself to be a positive leader and I appreciate that.” 

On senior Claire Stotts: “Our No. 1 player. She’s taken it upon herself to make sure the team has a positive experience. She’s chosen to hit with almost every girl on the team, which says a lot of for a No. 1 player.”

Dos Pueblos Girls Tennis

Coach Laura Housinger on Anjali Takrar: “Anjali is undefeated in her doubles career so far, which is exciting for her. She was out last year with an injury that didn’t allow to play many of the matches. This year she’s come back strong.”

On Ginger Vance: “Ginger has been rotating a little bit in singles and doubles and is getting her foot in the door with all that.”

UCSB Women’s Soccer

Coach Paul Stumpf on senior Mallory Hromatko: “She’s a huge part to the start of our season (7-2-0). She has five assists already on the year.”

On senior Maddie Gibson: “She has two goals this year, and one very important one. We beat Cal, 3-2, up there in overtime after being down 2-0 and Maddie scored the game winner in overtime.”

On senior Jessica Clegg: “She got our season rolling in Las Vegas in the heat. It was about 110 degrees, we started at 4 p.m., and at about 6:30 we had about minute left and we won when Jessica scored the game-winning goal against Sacramento State.”

SBCC Football

Coach Craig Moropoulos on freshman defensive end, DP alum Brian Molina: “He says maybe three words all week, but that’s OK as long as he plays like he did Saturday night against some big people (from Canyons). I’m fine with that.”

On freshman quarterback and SBHS alum Jeremiah Nicholson: He got pushed into starting duties because we lost our starter for the year against San Bernardino Valley. This young man was a man out there (against Canyons). He had a lot of balls dropped, but he never points a finger, never throws a fit. He just hustles back to the huddle looking for the next play. He got bounced around, threw some strikes. He’s going to be outstanding.”

San Marcos Football

Coach Jason Fowle on junior lineman Joe Kirkwood: “He’s definitely a pleasure to coach and to be around on a daily bases. With Joe’s help and the continued improvement of the offensive line, we were able to run for 257 yards against Channel Islands, which is big for us.”

On senior lineman Matt Pencek: “We named him a captain because he’s just the hardest working kid on our team. He plays both ways the entire game.

“We went into the locker at Channel Islands and everyone is excited after our first win, slapping fives and laughing and smiling, And I look in the corner and there’s a guy just laying on the ground, like lifeless, not even moving. That was Matt. He expelled just about every ounce of energy he had. That’s just why he’s a captain on our team.”

Laguna Blanca Football

Coach Shane Lopes on senior Josh Baron. “He and his peers have been able to maintain and demonstrate the values and qualities that the program stands for. Also being patient while the younger and inexperienced guys are learning to play the game.  He’s been able to execute that balance.” 

On Sangay Sherpa: “If you would assess on the field, he’s without a doubt a running back, but with the lack of experience we need to find guys who can block and play line. He’s been playing guard for us and doing a great job. It’s his humility and his commitment to what’s best for this team which is a reason why the team has been so successful thus far.”

Carpinteria Football

Coach Rick Candaele on senior Chris Ramirez playing with an ankle injury: “He worked tremendously hard. He played in the game (against Fillmore). He did a great job because he’s really good. He runs punts back. He has two punt returns for touchdowns (and another called back). I think when his ankle gets better he has a couple more in him.”

On senior receiver Jonathan Mora: “He actually likes to block as a wide receive. You only find a handful that actually like to block. Id say he has 2-3 touchdown blocks every game, where he gets on (a defender) and stays on them. And in return we throw him the ball some times.”

Santa Barbara High Football

Coach JT Stone on junior wide receiver Jackson Gonzales: “He’s been playing tremendous football for us the past two years. He’s been a true ambassador to the program. He does everything we ask him to do.” 

On sophomore nose guard Noah Wood: “He does a phenomenal job. Last year, we debated about putting hm on varsity, but we saw the last three games that we played and he just kicked butt at the nose guard spot, so he’s been a starter ever since. He has a bright future.”

Bishop Diego Football

Assistant coach Mick Luckhurst on senior kicker Jack Luckhurst (his son): “Jack is a player most football coaches would like to have on their team. You know the extra point is going to be good. We start with the kickoff team and the offense of the opposition starts at the 18-yard line on average this year. And, he’s netting just under 40 yards (punting).

“He’s recovered from two hip surgeries in the offseason. He’s not 100 percent but we’re pretty happy with what he’s done so far.”

On linebacker Matt Bribiesca: “When Matt walked on campus, we said, ‘Who is this kid?’ As it happens, he’s Clark Kent . He walks on the field he’s Superman. He’s now playing offense and defense. He leads the team in tackles. A great inspirational player. He’s a great addition to the team.”

On running back/linebacker Adrian Soracco: “There’s a family tradition of running backs and great football players. He’s an inspirational leader on the field and does a great job. He was out the first two games and it mattered to the team.”

Westmont Women’s Soccer

Assistant coach Caleb Cole on three key players: “Hailey Parker has four goals, four assist and great leadership. Maddie Bertoud has four goals, four assists, and her fire and competitive edge sets an example for the rest of the girls. 

Sydney Hess (San Marcos alum), a freshman, has stepped into center back and has been key in plugging leaks in the back line. Against Antelope Valley and Azusa Pacific, we recorded shutouts and Sydney was key both results.”

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Barry Punzal, Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at bpunzal@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.