By Zach Cavanagh
The winter season at San Clemente High School brings in a handful of new but familiar head coaches to take the helm of their programs, as each looks to maintain a championship standard and battle for the top.
Let’s check in with all of the Triton winter sports teams:
For the first time in 15 years, the San Clemente boys basketball program is under new leadership, as Landon Pluimer steps in for longtime head coach Marc Popovich, who resigned in the offseason to commit more time to his family.
Pluimer is a familiar face for the Tritons, serving as an assistant to Popovich since 2017. Pluimer also played college basketball in Orange County at Vanguard University and high school basketball in the South Coast League at Capistrano Valley.
While the Tritons lost some of their muscle down low from last season’s Division 1 playoff qualifier, San Clemente has showcased some shooting talent in the early season.
San Clemente (4-5) has been led in scoring by Jayden Schnabl. In each of the Tritons’ previous two wins, Schnabl has scored 13 points, and the senior also put up 28 points in a tight overtime tournament loss last week. Also leading San Clemente early are senior Weston Voigt and sophomores Davis Blake and Porter Hansen.
San Clemente opens South Coast League play at home against San Juan Hills on Jan. 11.
The San Clemente girls basketball team is packed with upperclassmen who will look to bring the Tritons’ program back to the top of the South Coast League.
The Tritons finished in second place in the league last season, and their Division 1 playoff run ended as quickly as it started with a first-round exit. Now, back down in Division 2AA, San Clemente will compete directly against San Juan Hills for the league title and CIF-SS positioning. In the latest CIF-SS polls, San Clemente is ranked No. 10 in Division 2AA, and San Juan Hills is ranked No. 3.
San Clemente (4-3) has had strong early tournament showings, and two of its three losses have come to the Trinity League’s Orange Lutheran, ranked No. 11 in Division 1, by four and nine points.
Leading the way for the Tritons has been junior Zona Miller. Miller posted a triple-double over Santa Margarita with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 11 steals. Miller is a two-sport athlete in the winter, as she also plays for the girls soccer team.
San Clemente opens league play at home against Aliso Niguel on Jan. 10.
The San Clemente boys soccer team was barely edged out for the South Coast League championship last season, but the Tritons bring back a stout defensive core that looks to get back on top.
San Clemente finished with the most wins in the league last season, but the Tritons took two losses, with one to eventual league champion San Juan Hills. In two matches between the Tritons and Stallions, only one goal was scored, which ultimately proved to be the league decider. San Juan Hills went unbeaten in league play (4-0-4) and finished one standings point ahead of San Clemente (5-2-1).
The Tritons allowed only 15 goals in 18 games last season, and that same tightly played mentality has been shown early this season. San Clemente has allowed just one goal in three games this season. The Tritons (1-0-2) opened with a 5-0 win at Dana Hills, played to a 1-1 draw against Long Beach Poly, and shut out Orange Lutheran in a scoreless draw.
Senior Kian Jadbabaei and junior Jake Poole lead the back line, senior Kai Trager patrols the midfield, and juniors Max Gonzales and Finn Linas are the dangerous forwards up top. Gonzales scored a hat trick against Dana Hills.
San Clemente will open league play at Aliso Niguel on Jan. 11.
The San Clemente girls soccer team experienced a similar campaign to its male counterparts last season, as the Tritons were a defensive force that fought San Juan Hills in an air-tight South Coast League.
The Tritons won the South Coast League title last season, and as the San Juan Hills boys did to the San Clemente boys, just one goal was scored in two games between San Clemente San Juan Hills, which proved to be the league decider. San Clemente went unbeaten in league (4-0-4) and tied with the Stallions (5-1-2) in standings points, but the win over San Juan Hills gave the Tritons the title.
San Clemente allowed only 14 goals in 19 games last season, and through two games this season, the Tritons have just allowed one score. San Clemente played Foothill to a scoreless draw and beat Torrey Pines, 3-1.
The Tritons have four college-bound players, with Malia McMahon having signed with UC Berkeley, Mia Owens with Utah Valley, Makenzie Gutowski with Chico State and Adelaide Brislen with Colgate.
San Clemente opens league play at Aliso Niguel on Jan. 12.
Girls Water Polo
The San Clemente girls water polo team was an offensive dynamo in an unbeaten South Coast League run last season, but in addition to losing their top goal scorers to graduation, the Tritons are under new/old management, as head coach Logan Powell retakes the helm of the program.
San Clemente showcased that offensive form in its 14-3 opening win over Carlsbad, but in the two games since, the Tritons have been stifled by elite competition against last season’s CIF-SS Open Division finalists, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.
Last season, San Juan Hills was San Clemente’s stiffest challenge in a dominant league performance, and with both teams on the CIF-SS Division 1 watch list, their league opener at San Juan Hills on Jan. 10 will be a tone-setter.
It’s a new era for the San Clemente boys wrestling program, as the Tritons look to defend their three straight CIF-SS dual meet championships without retired legendary head coach Mark Calentino. David Gayer, a longtime member of the coaching staff, steps up into the head role.
While its two state-qualifiers graduated, four CIF-SS Masters wrestlers return, including seniors Benjamin Hernandez, Dominic Morales, Cole Robertson and Fernando Llanos.
The San Clemente girls wrestling team reached the CIF-SS quarterfinals of the dual meet tournament for the second straight season last year, and the Tritons return their top grappler and two state qualifiers.
Junior Eden Hernandez was the only Triton wrestler—boy or girl—to finish with a winning record at the state tournament and finished one match away from a podium spot after battling through the 116-pound consolation bracket. Junior Berlyn Davis also competed at the state tournament.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at email@example.com.