The National Letter of Intent signing ceremonies at Santa Barbara’s three public high schools turned into a Gaucho roundup.
Four local athletes signed to play for UCSB: San Marcos High twins Jared and Caden Vom Steeg in soccer, San Marcos’ Henry Manfredonia in baseball, and Santa Barbara High’s Sam Meister in men’s volleyball.
“It was a tough recruiting deal,” joked Tim Vom Steeg, the twins’ father and UCSB’s head coach since 1999. “We’re looking forward to watching them develop over the next four years.”
Nine other athletes committed to four-year institutions.
Dos Pueblos — Kelly Meckelborg (Hawaii water polo) and Liv Naaman (Mount Holyoke lacrosse).
San Marcos — Zosia Amberger (Pomona water polo), Caroline Courtois (UC San Diego water polo), Madison Oriskovich (Pepperdine beach volleyball), Chloe Spievak (UC Irvine water polo), Annabelle Tiller (UC Berkeley track), and Taylor Wilson (Stanford beach volleyball).
Santa Barbara — Bella Obando (Loyola Marymount water polo).
The National Letter of Intent Signing Day for other sports including football will be held later in the year.
Tim and Almeria Vom Steeg were among the mask-wearing parents who attended San Marcos’ signing ceremony at the school’s outdoor, Greek Theater. Tim, who played for the Gauchos from 1985 to 1988, has coached two other sons at UCSB: Justin, a goalkeeper who is now with Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy, and Carson, a senior midfielder on this year’s team.
Both brothers encouraged the twins to follow in their footsteps.
“Justin played for one year and really enjoyed his experience there,” said Caden, who plays the forward position. “Carson has been there the last few years and has really gotten along with his teammates. He enjoyed the coaching, too.
“These are all good signs for me, helping me pick UCSB for college.”
Both twins were All-Channel Leaguers for San Marcos as sophomores. They are returning to the team this year after having spent their junior year with the Real So Cal club team.
Coach Vom Steeg had to out-recruit UC Irvine’s Yossi Raz, a Big West Conference rival, to gain his son’s services.
“I got hounded a lot by Yossi,” he said. “He was like, ‘Tim, seriously, the twins don’t match your style of play… They’re trapping and passing way too much for what you want to do out there. So why don’t you let me develop them?’
“We joked about it… So for the next four years, maybe we’ll be more of a passing team.”
The twins were too young to remember the runs UCSB made to the NCAA final in both 2004 and 2006, beating UCLA to win the title in their second attempt.
“I was probably 5, 6 years old when I got out there, cheering them on,” said Jared, a center-midfielder. “We’d go running around, playing soccer ourselves (behind the northern goal), and watching the games.
“I’ve been a big fan of their program. I love the atmosphere. I love the way they play. It’s all great. And having my dad as a coach is a great benefit.”
Caden, a center midfielder, has yet to watch film of either the 2004 or 2006 finals. He has seen video, however, of how the students marched out of Harder Stadiumin and through Isla Vista to celebrate the championship UCSB won in St. Louis in 2006.
“The goal was carried to the beach,” he said.
Meister, a 6-foot-5 volleyball hitter for Santa Barbara High’s volleyball team, closely followed UCSB’s ascendance to No. 3 in last year’s NCAA rankings. The Gauchos, led by AVCA National Coach of the Year Rick McLaughlin, were 14-2 when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the rest of their season.
“They were super-close to winning a (national) championship a year ago, and I’m hoping we can win one in the future,” Meister said. “I’ve always had a pretty good connection with Rick and I really like the way he coaches.
“I’ve seen the way he develops players. I just think he can make me into a great player in the future.”
Meister was a relative newcomer to volleyball when he joined coach Chad Arneson’s squad as a freshman.
“The guy could just jump out of the gym,” Arneson recalled. “He also was coordinated, and that helped out a lot. He’s a good kid, a good athlete, and it’s really neat to see how he’s progressed throughout each year.”
Manfredonia, a pitcher and corner infielder for San Marcos’ baseball team, became a Gaucho fan at an early age.
“My dad used to work at the police station there, right across the street, so basically I’d go out to watch the games every weekend as a kid,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play there.”
His late father, Dan Manfredonia, worked at UCSB as a business officer for environmental health and safety. He passed away in April of 2019 after battling cancer for several years.
Women’s water polo dominated the local signings. Amberger, an all-league goalkeeper for San Marcos, was one of three Royals to commit. Five players from coach Chuckie Roth’s program earned college scholarships the previous year.
“We have amazing players that come through here, both from the 805 program and from the San Marcos club program,” Amberger said.
Obando, like Amberger, started playing the sport of water polo later than most. She had concentrated on swimming before her siblings, Olivia and Mateo, convinced her to give their aquatic sport a try.
“Now I love it,” she said. She also “fell in love” with Loyola Marymount’s Westchester campus during a summer recruiting trip.
“I love their coach and I believe their program is one in which I’m really going to thrive,” said Obando, who plays to pursue a pre-med curriculum at LMU.