By Steve Breazeale
The 2016 prep sports spring season is on the horizon. In our annual season preview, we get you caught up on all the San Clemente High School spring sports programs as they head into the new year.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @SouthOCsports for in-game updates, scores, news and more for all of the Tritons teams all season long.
Last Season: 10-9 overall (6-3 league); advanced to the second round of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section Championships.
Players to Watch: Matt Keany, Nick Lemus, Austin Boyer and Branden Wilson.
Circle ’em: Corona del Mar (3/15) and Tesoro (3/30)
Outlook: The San Clemente boys lacrosse team opened its season with a gritty 6-5 victory over Newport Harbor on March 1. The game featured several clutch goals by the Tritons attack and, when it mattered most, the team’s defense clamped down against a talented Sailors team.
San Clemente returns plenty of talent on the defensive side of the field. The unit is anchored by Cleveland State commit, goalie and co-captain Austin Boyer, who compiled a 57 percent save percentage last season. Senior co-captain Caleb Bozarth, Ryan Crawford, Omeed Farhadi and transfer Lance Buckley make up an experienced defensive group.
The Tritons will have plenty of firepower in 2016 as the team returns Matt Keany (24 goals, 13 assists in 2015), Air Force commit Nick Lemus (28 goals, 35 assists) and sophomore Branden Wilson on attack.
“We had a lot of young guys get a lot of time last year as sophomores. These guys have had a year to grow up and it shows,” head coach Brad Reppert said. “They have definitely matured since last season and there’s good chemistry between these guys.”
Last Season: 25-8 overall (10-2 league); advanced to the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 2 Championships.
Players to Watch: Andre Pallante, Brett O’Toole, Tanner Brubaker and Eric Burckle.
Circle ’em: Anaheim Lions Tourn. (3/26-30) and Mission Viejo (4/5)
Outlook: Competition for spots has been the name of the game for the San Clemente baseball team as it gears up for its 2016 campaign. After losing 10 players who more or less made up the lineup and fielding charts over the past two seasons, the Tritons will be relying on a young crop of players and several veterans in 2016.
Aside from a few positions, head coach Dave Gellatly is letting his players battle it out every day in practice to see who will solidify themselves in certain roles in the lineup and on the field.
The top of the Tritons’ pitching rotation, however, is not up for debate. Andre Pallante, the team’s No. 1 starting pitcher, is looking to build on a junior season that saw him throw a team-high 73 1/3 innings and compile a 1.72 ERA. This offseason, Pallante has added size to his frame and is throwing consistently in the low 90s, reaching as high as 94 mph at times, according to Gellatly.
Injuries have hit the Tritons early in the season and they range in severity. Senior Tanner Brubaker, who figures to be the Tritons No. 2 pitcher and cleanup hitter, has been sidelined with a knee injury but should return within a week. Senior Liam Eldridge was slated to be an everyday player, but tore his ACL in the offseason and will be out for the year.
Seniors Brett O’Toole (catcher/first base) and Eric Burckle (middle infield) return.
Last Season: The Tritons placed third in the South Coast League
Players to Watch: Alex Pak, Shane Barreira and Ryan Moore.
Circle ’em: Dana Hills (3/28) and Tesoro (4/12)
Outlook: Sitting in a golf cart on the first tee of Talega Golf Club on Feb. 25, San Clemente boys golf head coach Mike Hurlbut explained how every so often a mix of players come together at the right time with the potential to make a run at a league title and advance into the highly competitive CIF-SS team play competition. Hurlbut believes this 2016 Triton squad fits that mold.
Leading the way for the Tritons is freshman Alex Pak, a highly regarded player who has competed for years on the junior circuit. Hurlbut said Pak has cemented himself as the team’s No. 1 player with a scoring average that is hovering right around par.
“(Pak) is single-handedly raising the bar already because of his practice and work ethic and how he carries himself,” Hurlbut said.
Pak adds considerable depth to the Tritons roster, which fields returning players Shane Barreira, Ryan Moore and Beau Hagen.
Hurlbut said the Tritons team scoring average is in the 190s, which should put them in contention to compete with rivals Dana Hills and Tesoro for the South Coast League title.
Last Season: 21-6 overall (6-2 league); advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 3 Championships
Players to Watch: Sierra Garrett, Melody Forstie, Raeonna Flores and Grace Krantz.
Circle ’em: Mission Viejo (3/8) and Laguna Hills (4/26)
Outlook: Last season, the San Clemente softball team relied heavily on several senior players’ ability to change the game with one swing of the bat. Graduated seniors Lauren Kane and Kelsey Horton combined to slug 19 home runs and drive in 69 RBIs. With that production missing from the lineup in 2016, the Tritons have learned it will take a balanced team effort to maintain momentum.
“Last year we had a couple big hitters that whenever we needed a couple runs they could get them in for us,” senior second baseman Sierra Garrett said. “This year everyone has to rely on each other to get little base hits or get bunts down or even get the big hits that we need.”
Seniors Garrett (who batted .293 as a junior) Melody Forstie and Olivia Bradish return to anchor the lineup.
The Tritons young pitching rotation will feature hard-throwing sophomore Grace Krantz and control-oriented freshman Raeonna Flores.
Boys Track and Field
Last Season: The Tritons won the Sea View League.
Athletes to Watch: Connor Dunne and Bennett Secrest.
Circle ’em; Triton Invitational (3/19) and OC Championships (4/23)
Outlook: The 2016 San Clemente boys track and field team will attempt to repeat as Sea View League champions for a third time this season.
The Triton distance runners will anchor the team in the track events, according to head coach Dan Johnson. University of Colorado commit Connor Dunne, a CIF State qualifier in the 800 in 2015, and Carlos de Jesus, the reigning league champion in the 1600-meter run, headline the talented distance group.
Senior high jumper Bennett Secrest has already cleared the 6-foot-2 mark this offseason and recently qualified for the California State Indoor Meet.
Junior pole vaulter Sean Kelsay, the defending league champion, and throwers Dade Amon and Donté Harrington add depth for the Tritons in the field events.
“I think we’re going to be fairly solid all the way around … we’re going to score points pretty much everywhere,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely looking to see if we can three-peat for a league title.”
Girls Track and Field
Last Season: The Tritons placed third in the Sea View League.
Athletes to Watch: Chandler Horton, Chloe Patterson and Anna Gillis.
Circle ’em: Triton Invitational (3/17) and Capistrano Valley (3/31)
Outlook: The San Clemente girls track and field roster is dotted with defending Sea View League champions and young athletes primed for major breakthroughs.
Senior thrower Anna Gillis racked up plenty of points for the Tritons in 2015 and is poised for another big season. Gillis was a CIF-SS qualifier last year and is the defending Sea View League shot put and discus champion.
Another top point-getter for the Tritons in the field events figures to be sophomore jumper Julia Becker, the defending league high jump champion.
Sophomore Chloe Patterson, who nearly captured both the 100- and 300-meter hurdle league titles as a freshman in 2015, finishing second in both events at the league finals, returns.
Sophomore Chandler Horton looks to lead a senior distance running group, along with seniors Amber Eisele and Makenna Brownell.
Last Season: 25-7 overall (5-3 league); advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships
Players to Watch: Paul Castellano, Aaron Strange, Kyler Presho and Jess Hunt.
Circle ’em: Best of the West Tourn. (3/11-12) and Dana Hills (3/29)
Outlook: Opponents in the South Coast League will have a hard time matching the size of the San Clemente boys volleyball team this season. The Tritons will trot out four starters who stand over 6-foot-4, a group that includes opposite Paul Castellana (6-8) and middle blocker Kyler Presho (6-7).
The Tritons had the benefit of fielding two established setters last season, which allowed the Tritons offense to take advantage of its size more often. This year, the team will rely on junior setter Kian Feiner to facilitate the ball and get the offense in rhythm.
Head coach Ken Goldstone pegged Presho and junior outside hitter Jess Hunt as two breakout season candidates. Both Presho and Hunt got some playing time last year as sophomores but will play prominent rolls in 2016. USC commit Aaron Strange will likely play at both the opposite and outside hitter positions.
Last Season: The Tritons won the South Coast League title and advanced to the CIF-SS Division 2 finals.
Players to Watch: Michael Bott and Jay Yeam.
Circle ’em: Woodbridge (3/7) and Redlands (3/9)
Outlook: Claremont Makenna-bound senior Jay Yeam and junior Michael Bott helped power the San Clemente boys tennis team to a league championship and an appearance in the CIF-SS Division 2 finals last season. Both standout players return to lead the Tritons singles rotation in 2015.
Caden Spencer, a returning starter, figures to be the Tritons No. 3 singles player.
The Tritons were top-heavy in singles last year but had enough strength on the doubles side to push them deep into the playoffs. This year, returning doubles players Chris Torcaso and Jacob Greenberg will be playing with Tony Gregory and freshman Lance Ding, respectively.
In the 2015 Division 2 finals, Santa Margarita was able to load up their doubles rotation to stymie the Tritons and gain valuable points in an 11-7 win. The tactic proved to be a useful learning tool for the Tritons, who have been putting an extra emphasis on doubles play this season.
“I think (the finals match) helped them realize the things we want to work on and where we want to be stronger,” Stephens said. “We don’t want to be that team that is struggling in doubles this year.”
Boys Swimming & Diving
Last Season: The Tritons placed second in the South Coast League and fourth in the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships.
Athletes to Watch: Brad Prolo, Nathan Benge, Luis Alvarez and Caleb Dixon.
Circle ’em: Capo Relays (3/10-12) and Dana Hills (3/22)
Outlook: After a 2015 season that culminated with a fourth-place finish at the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships, the San Clemente boys swim team will have to regroup with a young squad in 2016.
The Tritons depth charts took a hit to graduation, but plenty of club swimmers return to form a balanced squad for second-year head coach Thomas Dollar.
Nathan Benge and Luis Alvarez are among a group of returning juniors that are positioned to pick up plenty of points for the Tritons this season. Benge will compete in the butterfly and sprint freestyle, and Alvarez will compete in the backstroke and sprint freestyle. Junior Brad Prolo will swim the 200IM and breaststroke.
Sophomore sprint swimmer Boston Williams posted a time of 52 seconds in the 100 freestyle as a freshman and Dollar anticipates the dynamo to lop off several seconds in the event in his second year with the team.
USC commit Caleb Dixon, the program record holder for points scored, returns as the Tritons’ lone diver.
Girls Swimming & Diving
Last Season: N/A
Athletes to Watch: Lauren Amigleo, Isabella Anderson
Outlook: The San Clemente girls swimming and diving team will enter the 2016 season under the guidance of first-year head coach Bradley Kerr. A San Clemente High School alum, Kerr has been working for the California State Parks as a lifeguard instructor and supervisor the past few years.
The Tritons went winless in league competition last season, but Kerr believes the team has the returning talent to help right the ship.
Sophomore freestyle sprint swimmer Lauren Amigleo, a club swimmer who also competes with the Tritons, returns.
The Tritons will conduct a mock meet on March 4, which will be the first time Kerr can observe how his team handles the stress of live competition.
“They all seem to be a highly motivated group of young women who are definitely working very hard,” Kerr said. “They seem to be working well together and pushing each other. They seem motivated to win meets and do well this year.”
Last Season: 8-8 overall (3-5 league); advanced to the first round of the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section Championships
Players to Watch: Kelsey Bland, Victoria LeCause, Shay Hefft and Jessica De Collibus.
Circle ’em: St. Margaret’s (3/22) and Aliso Niguel (4/12)
Outlook: San Clemente girls lacrosse head coach Joshua Cain did not expect to see his team in such a groove this early in the season.
The Tritons lost 13 seniors to graduation this offseason, which made the team’s season-opening 14-3 victory over Irvine on Feb. 29 a big step in the right direction for a young team made up primarily of sophomores and juniors.
The Tritons have just two returning starters in senior Victoria LeCause and sophomore Kelsey Bland, who combined for three goals against Irvine.
But what the team lacks in varsity experience they more than make up for in other areas of the game, according to Cain.
“The win over Irvine did (surprise). The majority of the team is young,” Cain said. “But we have a super athletic group, and they’re picking up the game and team play very quickly … I thought it would take longer for things to start clicking.”
Sophomores Shay Hefft, Jessica De Collibus and transfer Kiley Buckley will switch in and out of midfield and attacking roles, giving the Tritons versatility and depth.