Chuckie Roth was trying to remember the ranking of his opening-game girls water polo opponent in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions when it finally struck the San Marcos High coach:
“It doesn’t really matter,” he declared during Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Café. “They’re all really good.”
The Royals will take a No. 9 ranking (CIF-Southern Section Division 1) into this weekend’s event which will be held at the pools of all three local Channel League schools.
“We graduated five wonderful seniors last year, and so a lot of people have had to step up to the occasion,” Roth said of his San Marcos squad.
They include Riley Christen, his new starting goalkeeper, and Angie Drake.
“Our team has come a long way, and she is a big part of that,” Roth said of Christen. “She really looks to improve every single day. She’s been a strong, solid force on defense.”
Drake, the freshman anchor on a 200 freestyle relay team that placed third in the 2017 CIF Championships, has returned to the pool after missing all of her sophomore season with surgery on both shoulders.
“That whole time that she could not participate, she would still be in the water, warming up, doing whatever she could do,” Roth said. “She always wore a suit at games. She’s the definition of a team member.
“She’s getting better and stronger, and she’s going to be a big part of our team. As we move forward, her improvement and her coming back to full strength will be indicative of our team’s success.”
Dos Pueblos is ranked just ahead of San Marcos at No. 8, with senior Kayla Peacock and junior Sabina Shackelford “really making the game fast for us,” coach Connor Levoff said.
“Kayla has stepped into a big leadership role with our group this year,” he said. “Her finishing has improved over the course of the year. She just looks like a senior when she plays in the games now. She’s consistent, she’s confident, and she’s somebody that we’re really able to lean on.
“We need a lot of big games out of her as we’re facing a rather stiff challenge this weekend.”
Levoff described Shackelford as his “do-everything defender” who’s also become a top finisher on offense.
“She’ll match up with the top player on another team, she’ll defend a center,” he began. “She’ll cover the gap, always with an eye towards what’s going to happen ultimately on the offensive end of the pool, which is where she’s really developed this year.
“She’s put the ball in the goal with the best rate that I’ve seen from her, and I’ve had the privilege of coaching her since she was 10 or 11 years old.”
Santa Barbara coach Mark Walsh, whose Dons are ranked 15th in Division 1, is hoping to regroup in the TOC after they “didn’t play great” at the Holiday Cup.
“We’re excited to have the best teams in the country coming in,” he said. “This is definitely a group effort, to get that done.”
Santa Barbara will tune up for the TOC today by taking its first trip to new Channel League member Santa Ynez.
“It’ll be the first time that I’ve been in a shallow-and-deep pool since all of our local pools got redone 10-to-15 years ago,” Walsh said. “I don’t think our kids have seen one. An eight-foot goal is going to be interesting for them, to try to figure out how to block.
“(Don’s goalkeeper) Faith Tedesco will be able to figure it out. She’s a pretty good player.”
Santa Barbara High’s youth movement is headed in a positive direction, with the Dons having won five of their last six games. Coach Andrew Butcher introduced sophomores Athena Saragoza and Briana Trujillo, as well as freshman Caia Trimble: “These guys have the fire, it’s just a matter of keeping the fire under control,” he said.
Saragoza, who received the Athletic Round Table’s Female Athlete of the Week Award, and Trimble both won all-tournament honors at last week’s Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.
“Athena as a freshman last year was about our fourth-leading scorer, and this year there’s a lot of pressure on her to lead us, and she’s done a terrific job,” Butcher said. “(Trimble), she’s ready to go, and she’s had some 20-point games as a freshman and she’s unafraid of anything, including me.
“Briana is a shooter … All three of these guys have figured out shot selection. We shoot better from three-point than from two-point, and better from three-point than free throws.”
Five seniors have led San Marcos to a 2-0 start in Channel League play. Coach Chris Hantgin introduced two of his key veterans: wing guard Alex Guadagno and forward Megan Cunnison.
“Alex is a mid-range scorer for us,” he said. “She’s coming off a high-ankle sprain so we haven’t had her for a couple of weeks, but she’s getting herself healthy.
“She’s long on defense, a good passer (and) she gives us a little bit of a left-handed weapon.”
Cunnison is a four-year varsity letterman and “the anchor” of Hantgin’s defense.
“She has to deal with all the team’s taller girls,” he said. “She’s been a tremendous leader for us and one of our best rebounders, and someone I can rely on in terms of communication on the court.”
San Marcos High is coming off a dramatic overtime victory over a ranked St. Bonaventure team, with Beau Allen receiving Athletic Round Table Male Athlete of the Week honors for his 27-point effort.
“It was a very, very good game for us in terms of growing and learning, and it was a good win, especially when you’ve got to fight for it,” Royals’ coach Jelani Hicks said. “We also took second place in the bronze division at the Damien Tournament.
“All the teams we played against were pretty good and it forced us to see what we’re made of.”
Junior guard Jordan Spaschak may be a newcomer on Westmont’s roster, having transferred in from Shasta Community College, but coach John Moore said he’s already established himself as “one of the finest leaders I’ve ever had.”
“If you can make those around you better, then you’re doing great things,” Moore said. “He’s that kind of sacrificial, trusting teammate.
“He’s had had four knee surgeries, and he’s still playing the game of basketball despite his mother’s wishes. We’re glad he is.”
Spaschak scored 20 points in last week’s victory over No. 25 William Jessup.
“He’s found his way to fit into the team in all the ways we need him to fit in,” said Moore, whose Warriors (9-4, 3-2 Golden State Athletic Conference) will travel to No. 6 The Masters on Saturday with hopes of climbing back into the national rankings.
No. 15 Westmont (11-4, 5-1 GSAC) will try to break a first-place tie with No. 21 The Masters when they battle on Saturday in Santa Clarita. The young Warriors began asserting themselves last month by knocking off No. 3 Wayland Baptist, a team it also beat in last year’s NAIA Final Four.
“We have all these new players who have never been in that kind of dogfight like that before and we somehow found a way to win,” coach Kirsten Moore said. “We played incredible defense. I was really proud of just the promise that shows for this group.”
Westmont also beat nationally ranked Menlo and William Jessup in GSAC play last week.
“We had people step up in big moments, and we were able to get leads and maintain and hold on to leads, which doesn’t always happen when you’re three leading scorers are freshmen,” Moore said. “We have couple of returners who are providing great leadership. I’m excited to see this group continue to grow.”
UCSB (3-11) gave defending Big West Conference champion Cal State Northridge a battle before losing its league opener 73-65 on the road.
“Our season hasn’t started as well as we would’ve hoped,” assistant coach Ashlee Klingenberg said. “Every game we’re pretty much in there the whole time.
“On Saturday we go to Cal Poly and then we open at home the next Saturday against Long Beach State. Those are our two rivals.”
UCSB (3-0) swept through its own season-open Asics Invitational, winning a 3-2 thriller against Harvard before sweeping both Grand Canyon and Concordia.
“That was a good mark for us,” assistant coach Vince Devany said. “Our senior outside hitter Corey Chavers and our senior libero Hayden Boehle were both named to the all-tournament team.
“Our nonconference competition will continue this Wednesday — we host (No. 5) Pepperdine at 7 p.m. at Rob Gym. We hope to continue what we started this weekend.”
The Athletic Round Table introduced its All-South Coast High School Football Team, which is sponsored by Noozhawk.
Adrian Soracco, a junior running back at Bishop Diego High, and Jack Deardorff, a senior quarterback at Cate, were selected as Co-Offensive Players of the Year, while Santa Barbara High senior end Jeremiah Phillips was tabbed as the Defensive Player of the Year.
Other offensive picks were:
Line — Angel Flores, Dos Pueblos, Sr; Sunny Graybill, DP, Sr.; Bobby Estrada, Santa Barbara, Sr.; Toby Pouso’o, Bishop Diego Soph. Quarterback — Frankie Gamberdella, SB, Sr. Running Backs — Tommy Schaeffer, San Marcos, Sr.; Drew Anastasio, Cate, Sr.; Eric Lopez, DP, Sr. Wide Receivers — Brady Sturdivan, Carpinteria, Sr. Dakota Hill, SB, Jr. Josh Brown, SM, Jr. Isaia Morones, BD, Sr. Tight End — Mark Vehslage, BD, Sr.
Other defensive selections were:
Line — Jordon Tagaloa, BD, Soph.; Noah Wood, SB, Soph.; Jackson Stetler, DP, Sr.; Luke Calloway, Carp., Sr. Linebackers — Jafet Gomez, SM, Sr. Matt Bribiesca, BD, Jr. Johnny Valencia, SB, Jr.; Callum Casey, Cate, Jr. Defensive Backs — Chris Ramirez, Carp., Sr.; Dillon Roberts, DP, Sr.; Jacob Forney, SB, Sr.; Diego Cruz, DP, Sr.
Special team selections:
Returner — Conner Lee, DP, Jr. Kicker — Jesse Mollkoy, DP, Sr. Punter — Jack Luckhurst, BD, Sr.