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San Clemente sophomore Olga Mihlaik tees off in a South Coast League match against Laguna Hills on September 17. Photo by Steve Breazeale
San Clemente sophomore Olga Mihlaik tees off in a South Coast League match against Laguna Hills on September 17. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Tritons start new season with eyes on the winner’s circle

By Steve Breazeale

Tritons Boys Water Polo Facing Change Head On
Going into the summer, San Clemente boys water polo head coach Marc Parker thought he had his varsity roster set. Several starters were slated to return for their senior season until three decided to transfer to JSerra Catholic, leaving holes in the Tritons depth chart. The usual senior turnaround, coupled with the transfers, have the left the
Tritons searching for help in-house.

Four returning starters and three players from last year’s team have been working to mesh together for competition in the South Coast League. They are joined by young players who Parker would normally have playing at the junior varsity level. But in the mix and match world of high school sports, where anything can happen, they will be called upon to help the Tritons reach the playoffs.

“Their cohesiveness is going to be the big thing they have to focus on … these guys are new together and we have a tendency to be a little more individualized and they have to get that team cohesion together,” Parker said. “If they do that I think we can be very successful.”

The San Clemente boys water polo team will rely on a core group of veterans and a key transfer to keep them competitive in the South Coast League. Photo by Steve Breazeale
The San Clemente boys water polo team will rely on a core group of veterans and a key transfer to keep them competitive in the South Coast League. Photo by Steve Breazeale

One missing piece to the puzzle that could solve some of the depth issues is Drew Papilion, who is waiting to hear from the CIF-SS offices on when he will be eligible to play for the Tritons. Papilion, a standout center defender and Mater Dei transfer, is likely to be eligible for San Clemente on September 25, Parker said.

Junior Chase Hamming will provide the offensive firepower for the Tritons, as he did in 2012. As a sophomore Hamming led the team in goals.

Senior Taylor Russell, junior goalie Adam Sandor and attacker Colton Hamming all started last year and will be crucial to the Tritons success this time around.

Players like Coby Larinde, Ben Chong and Michael Hamming all saw time last year and are poised to step into starting roles.

With the loss of key seniors and transfers, the Tritons have started to shift to a different style of play that better suits their current personnel. Parker believes that this version of the Tritons squad is better conditioned than last year’s. They may not be as big size-wise but they have the potential to wear opponents down over the span of four quarters.

“It’s going to have to be a little more movement based and draw the ejections and man advantages,” Parker said. “Swimming-wise we’re faster this year than we were last year so maybe we can get a few easy counter goals and transition goals.”

Junior middle blocker Natalie Knauf readies to receive a pass during a practice. Photo by Steve Breazeale
Junior middle blocker Natalie Knauf readies to receive a pass during a practice. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Girls Volleyball Hoping Past Experiences Pay Off
At the annual Dave Mohs Tournament at Edison High, San Clemente girls volleyball head coach Rob O’Rear saw his team’s potential. The Tritons went a less than desirable 1-6 in the elite tournament that features top teams from Southern California, but he felt like the team made strides to start off what could be a bounce back year.

The team started two freshman and two sophomores in 2012, en route to a 1-7 South Coast League finish. Much of that same starting lineup is back, with valuable experience now under their belt. They are now more familiar with each other on the court, which they proved by taking one game against top-ranked Mater Dei at the tournament.

“We were all sensing it. It was right in front of us, that next little step. We just couldn’t quite get to it at the tournament,” O’Rear said.

The Tritons will have five returning starters on their roster in 2013. They picked up a middle blocker in freshman Cassie Stewart and have been giving the nod in the early going to sophomore libero Camille Davey. Both the middle blocker and libero positions were spots the Tritons needed to fill over the offseason.

Injuries have been a thorn in their side so far in the early going, as standout outside hitter Cali Hoye and Tatum Harvey are nursing lingering back injuries. Hoye led the team in kills last year and Harvey had the highest kill percentage on the team in the preseason until she was sidelined by her injury. With Hoye and Harvey out, O’Rear expects Stewart to become more of an offensive focal point.

Even though a majority of the Tritons roster saw time last year on varsity, O’Rear still considers them a young team. At any time there could be a combination of one freshman and four sophomores out on the court. What O’Rear is hoping for, is that by the time league play rolls around, this young team will have found what was just out of reach at the Dave Mohs Tournament.

“There’s still a lot of untapped potential in these players … I kind of like to think that with the experience we have as a team last year, by the time we get to October, we’ll be running on all cylinders … But we’ll see if we can stay consistent and healthy,” O’Rear said.

Sophomore Stephanie Neilson returns a ball during a match against Mater Dei on September 16. Photo by Steve Breazeale
Sophomore Stephanie Neilson returns a ball during a match against Mater Dei on September 16. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Youth Movement Helping Tritons Girls Tennis Regain Form
The San Clemente girls tennis team has the benefit of returning a majority of their players that were a part of the team’s 2012 CIF-SS second-round run. But they also lost their top two singles players to graduation, allowing a young group of Tritons to leap frog their way up the ranks to gain experience and compete for wins in 2013.

There are no new freshmen on this year’s team, but several rising sophomores will make up the top of their singles rotation.

Sophomores Natalie Nasonghkla and Stephanie Neilson have broken in to the top three singles rotation already. The two play with different styles, according to head coach John Stephens. Nasonghlka possesses a strong game centered on her consistent ground strokes. Neilson is a methodical player who always knows where to place the ball and thinks her way through a match.

Senior Julia Yeam rounds out the singles group and plays with an aggressive and powerful style, according to Stephens.

The doubles duo of senior Morgan Berman and sophomore Taylor Bonghi are the current top doubles unit. Seniors Jessica Scarlata and Maria Zanotti make up another team.

The players on the Tritons depth charts are relatively new to varsity-level play, which places an importance on them fine tuning their games throughout the preseason. Once league play starts, the Tritons will have to deal with the likes of Tesoro and reigning South Coast League and CIF SoCal Regional champion Dana Hills.

“It’s a work in progress, we are continuing to learn how to compete in singles and in doubles just learning how to be tougher mentally and be more consistent,” Stephens said. “The girls are working on trying to get rid of their little habits and tendencies that hurt their games so we’re just trying to get them to get beyond those things. It’s a challenge but the kids are working hard and they’re trying.”

Tritons Boys Cross Country Look to Pack Running Mentality for Success
A strong group of sophomores mixed with returning varsity runners will lead the San Clemente boys cross country team into the 2013 season.

As freshman, a group of runners that includes Nick Ulph, Matt Shelton and Jeremy Brady captured the South Coast League freshman title. Head coach Dan Johnson figures four of his top seven runners will be a mix of that same freshman group, who are now one year older. There is even a freshman, Jay Greenblatt, contending for one of the Tritons top seven spots.

Seniors Matt Parker and Jake Moskowitz will look to lead the group of new varsity runners.

“We’re young but I think we’re going to be pretty talented,” Johnson said.

The Tritons do not feature a runner who gets out in front and posts a low 16-minute time. Instead, they run in a pack, which will give them bursts of points throughout a race. Johnson saw the freshman squad run in the pack style last season and has seen them carry that over to the varsity level.

“They’re all fairly close to one another, there’s not a big difference in ability. We don’t have one guy way ahead of everyone else,” Johnson said. “But we’ll have a whole bunch of guys running in the high 16’s and low 17’s on a real consistent basis. I think consistency this year is going to be much better than what we’ve had in the past.”

The Tritons will compete in the competitive South Coast League, which features returning champion Dana Hills and Trabuco Hills.

They San Clemente girls cross country team is looking to repeat as South Coast League champions in 2013. Photo by Steve Breazeale
They San Clemente girls cross country team is looking to repeat as South Coast League champions in 2013. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Tritons Girls Cross Country Looking to Make History … Again
The San Clemente girls cross country team is coming off an historic season. For the first time in the school’s history, they emerged as South Coast League champions. This year, head coach Dave Proodian believes the team will be even deeper, which could propel them past their fifth-place finish at the 2012 CIF Division 1 State Championships, a meet the Tritons have reached in each of the last seven seasons.

They lost three top-flight runners in Lizzy Hays, Madison Huffman and Sara Kebede, who are all running at the collegiate level, but have been able to replace them due to their talented and deep roster.

Senior Melissa Eisele is currently the top runner for the Tritons and will pace the pack. The number two spot behind Eisele, according to Proodian, could be any one of the Tritons’ top runners, which in cross country, is a good problem to have.

“It’s nice being as deep as we are … you need to have a solid five runners and if someone gets injured you have to have someone to depend on to take that spot and we’re at the point where we have a lot of depth,” Proodian said.

Joining Eisele in the top rotation will be Kelsey Carroll, Gracie Georgi and seniors Jessica Erickson and Sydney Szabo.

Junior Katie Carroll and sophomore Amber Eisele have had standout races in the early season, including strong finishes at the recent Laguna Hills Invitational.

Early Success Has Tritons Girls Golf Fired up for New Season
Mike Hurlbut likes his girls golf team to average around 40 strokes per nine holes. That usually is good enough to contend with and beat some of the better teams in the county. If their top five golfers can break 200 strokes—that’s ideal.

In the San Clemente girls golf team’s first South Coast League match on September 16 against Laguna Hills, they shattered all of those marks, posting a team score of 186 at Laguna Woods Golf Club. They won their match by 71 strokes but more importantly, they had five golfers all within five shots of par, including junior Alex Cooper’s round of 34 (-1). It was the lowest team score in at least four years that Hurlbut could recall.

San Clemente sophomore Sarah Duncan tees off in a South Coast League match against Laguna Hills on September 17. The Tritons are looking to shake up the top of the league standings, which have been dominated by rival Dana Hills and Tesoro in recent years. Photo by Steve Breazeale
San Clemente sophomore Sarah Duncan tees off in a South Coast League match against Laguna Hills on September 17. The Tritons are looking to shake up the top of the league standings, which have been dominated by rival Dana Hills and Tesoro in recent years. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Cooper is among a group of three upperclassmen on the nine person roster, the rest is made up of five sophomores and one freshman.

“Our starting six is Alex Cooper, and the rest are sophomores. It sounds young but it’s the most experienced, young team I’ve ever had,” Hurlbut said.

Hurlbut accredits the team’s chemistry to their rising success. Over the offseason, several of the Tritons players devoted themselves to playing competitive junior golf, which helped hone their skills. When they returned for the team’s first practice, Hurlbut saw each golfer take notice of their teammate’s improvements.

“When they come back together and see how much each one of them has improved its like ‘Wow, this could be something special’, it’s very contagious,” Hurlbut said.

Cooper and sophomore Isabella Seeburger have been setting the pace this season, with scoring averages below 38. Madison Wiedeman, Juliet Duralde and Olga Mihlaik round out the top six.

Dana Hills and Tesoro have been battling for the league championship in recent years and if the preseason is any indication, the Tritons might have the firepower to make it a three-team race. On September 10 the Tritons beat the Dolphins in a non-league match, 195-208, at Aliso Viejo Country Club.

On Friday, the Tritons will see where they stack up against some of Southern California’s best teams, as they host the Rainbow Sandals Lady Triton Invitational at San Clemente Municipal Golf Course. Top teams like Troy, Santa Margarita, Aliso Niguel and Palm Desert are set to compete.

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