In the delayed season of COVID-19, it was fitting that several athletes were honored for their comebacks during Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon.
Seniors Luke Knightley and Buddy Melgoza, a pair of seniors who played for Bishop Diego High’s CIF-State Division 3AA championship football team as freshmen in 2017, will suit up for their final game on Saturday when the Cardinals (4-0) travel to Newbury Park.
Melgoza, who suffered the first of two knee injuries in the state championship win over Shasta High, made three interceptions in the second half of Friday’s victory over defending 3AA state champion Bakersfield Christian.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” assistant coach Steve Robles said. “He’s a hard worker, he’s dealt with adversity, he never gave up on himself, and he will be playing football at the next level next year.”
Knightley was a starting defensive back for the 2017 state champions.
“Like Buddy, he’s dealt with adversity and has overcome two late-season injuries — his sophomore and junior years,” Robles said. “He’s really worked hard to prepare himself for the season. He’s another coach on the field, a very mature young man. He’s going to be playing at the next level next year, too.”
Robles’ star running back, junior Marcus Chan, will return next year. He rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns last Friday and also had an interception to win the Athletic Round Table Male Athlete of the Week Award. He even serves as the Cardinals’ long and short snapper.
“He’s had a phenomenal spring season,” Robles said. “He just continues to get better every day. We’re excited to see what he brings next year as a senior.”
He also introduced senior Lucas Dutcher, a starting safety since his sophomore year who “provides a steadiness to the others around him … It’s great to see him as a senior running the secondary like a coach on the field.”
San Marcos (1-2) has its own comeback kid in senior tight end George Tracewell, who made an improbable return to the field to play in Friday’s game against Santa Ynez after having separated his shoulder just two weeks earlier.
“He caught a couple of passes and we’ll probably have him play some defense this week, as well,” coach Jason Fowle said. “George has been that guy for us who leads the program. Everybody looks up to George. I appreciate that.”
He’s also glad to have senior Korey Becker heading into Friday’s season finale at Dos Pueblos (0-3).
“He’s been the anchor at center for us, helping some of the younger guys on either side of him,” Fowle said. “He hasn’t played a lot of defense because we like to keep the guys who are important on the offensive line playing (only there) … But the other night, he was one of the guys saying, ‘Hey, I want to go in! I want to go in and play defense! I want to do what I can!’”
Dos Pueblos High’s highly ranked girls lacrosse team — No. 15 in all CIF divisions and No. 3 in Division 2 — has been led so far by sophomore Avery Ball.
She scored seven times in an 11-10 overtime win at Royal which included the game-tying goal as well as the game-winner during the extra period. She also scored four goals with two assists in a victory over 13th-ranked Simi Valley.
“Avery is incredible — she’s very consistent,” coach Jess Delgadillo said. “She’s an extremely hard worker and consistently practices outside of our practices by herself or with other players.
“She has 19 goals … To put it into perspective, our second-best has, I think, six. She’s more than tripled that, which is insane since she’s just a sophomore.”
Santa Barbara’s baseball team has its own rivalry week with games at San Marcos on Wednesday and at home against Dos Pueblos on Friday. Coach Steve Schuck likes his chances with team leaders Oliver McGibben and Vince Gamberdella.
“Oliver is a senior centerfielder and kind of the quiet leader of the team,” he said. “He’s got tremendous grades, he’s a hard work, and we’re expecting good things from him.”
Gamberdella, a junior catcher, is a louder leader, he added.
“We like to call Gambo Ferdinand the Bull because he’s like a bull in a china shop,” Schuck said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. He also likes to coach and give his input — and we love that.
“These two guys right here are the lifeblood of the team. We kind of go the way they go and they’re just coming into their own right now.”
Robles, speaking for Bishop baseball coach Pete Stathopoulos, introduced two leaders of his own: seniors Devin Goodwin and Tyler Dutcher, Lucas’ brother.
“Coach says Devin is one of our leaders at practice every day, and especially on game days,” Robles said. “He says Tyler is pickup-kind-of-guy: always a ‘Yes sir, no sir, coach.’ Gives 100 percent every day and is a great team player.
“They had a good win against Carpinteria, 12-5.”
Senior Allie Fryklund is leading San Marcos High in both the batter’s box and in the pitcher’s circle, coach Jeff Swann said.
“We kind of evaluate her personally in the hits that she gives up, not runs, because I know she won’t be giving up many hits this year,” he said. “She’s going to Arizona Christian next year with an athletic scholarship, so I’m looking for great things from her in the future.”
Sophomore Gigi Gritt has a bright future, as well, he said.
“In our doubleheader on Saturday, she caught eight innings and came out and threw seven innings in the second game,” Swann said. “She did it with a smile the whole day. She is just as tough as nails and battles.
“She has great knowledge of every position. She played shortstop for us last year.”
A youth movement which includes freshman Tessa Johansen and sophomore Lily Simolon, is also leading Bishop Diego, assistant coach Al Cerda said. Johansen is a first baseman they’ve converted into a shortstop.
“We apologize to her all the time,” Cerda said, “but it’s, ‘You’ve got to get to shortstop, you’ve to go there,’ because she’s such a great athlete.”
Simolon comes from the same mold.
“She’s our center fielder … she was on the CIF finalist basketball team at Bishop High last year,” Cerda said. “She’s another great athlete.
“Not only are they great athletes, but they’re great students, as well. Both of them excel in the classroom.”
The comeback stories at Santa Barbara High include Elise Power. She had most of her water polo season wiped out by a concussion a few weeks ago but is now primed to lead the Dons into swim season at Dos Pueblos on Thursday.
“She’s one of the co-captains for both water polo and swim,” coach Mark Walsh said. “She’s already been accepted to Cal Berkeley and has a couple of other schools she’s looking at potentially for water polo. She’s one of our best all-around players.”
He also introduced Bella Obando, who will be playing water polo at Loyola Marymount next year.
“She’s one of our better swimmers,” Walsh added. “She’s very quick in a lot of races, particularly the backstroke and butterfly.”
Juniors Ryan Drake and Sean O’Brien, meanwhile, are the “heart and soul of our boys’ team.”
“Ryan is as gifted a shooter as we’ve had in a long time,” Walsh said. “He’s one of the quicker water polo players, as well. He excels in the butterfly and the backstroke, sprint freestyle — he’s just truly talented with anything he does.
“He was talking about catching passes from Deacon (Hill, quarterback of the Santa Barbara football team) in the next football game, and I think he could probably pull that off, too.”
He added that O’Brien is one of the fastest swimmers on the water polo team.
“He leads our counterattack,” Walsh said. “He does the same thing in the swim races. He excels in the 50, the 100, the 200 freestyles.”
San Marcos coach Chucky Roth recruited diver Malia Yim after watching her do “60-some pushups” in an independent P.E. class.
“I asked, ‘What sport do you play?’ She went, ‘I’m a gymnast.’ I said, ‘No, you’re a diver now,’” Roth said. “I had her in the pool within a day … And she’s going to be one of the best female divers we’ve had in years. She’s going to end up diving next year at Cal Lutheran University.”
He said he has a natural leader in Kaylene King, who is captain of the San Marcos swim team as well as the ASB president. King and Yim organized offseason runs for the team during the darkest days of the pandemic and they even ran a marathon.
“Both of them help inspire a group of people and really make an impact when I think we all were going through a pretty hard time,” Roth said.
Dorienne Larbig, who trains with King at a local swim club, has also been a leader, he said.
“Dori has really made a big impact on all the other girls with her work ethic and her approach to swimming, and her discipline to swimming,” he said.
The Royals open their swim season on Wednesday at Westlake in “one of the most challenging swim meets we’ll have all season long,” Roth said. “Then we have Cabrillo the following day.”