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The Signal looks ahead to the 2013-14 Foothill League season

Posted: August 13, 2013 9:18 p.m.
Updated: August 13, 2013 9:18 p.m.

Junior Samantha Ortega returns to Saugus as the Centurions look for an eighth straight state Cross Country title.

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 School is back in session starting Thursday for the six public high schools in town.

That means the start of the 2013-14 sports season is coming soon, as well.

Each year, new athletes emerge as stars and the season’s top stories unfold.

Based on last year’s results and this year’s projections, here is The Signal’s quick preview of the key points in every Foothill League sport.

 

 Fall season

Cross Country

There’s no reason to think any other girls team but the seven-time defending state champion Saugus team will win league, especially with key returners like Samantha Ortega and Abigail Frankian returning. Other girls runners to watch will be West Ranch’s Taylor Welker, Valencia’s Kaylee Thompson and Canyon’s Kyla Danforth. On the boys side, it will also be Saugus looking to defend its league title with returning senior Alex Pearson leading the way. Hart junior Ruben Rubira and promising West Ranch sophomore Tucker Welker should also be worth keeping an eye on.

Football

With football season quickly approaching, there are plenty of storylines around the Foothill League.

Experienced quarterbacks return at Hart (junior Brady White), Canyon (senior Cade Apsay), Saugus (junior Chris Hamilton) and Golden Valley (senior Robert Phillips).

Meanwhile, West Ranch will feature a new face in junior Chase Killingsworth, who has earned the starting spot under first-year head coach Jan Miller.

Miller, however, considers himself a defensive-minded coach.

The only competition under center is at Valencia, where the defending Foothill League champions will feature either returning senior Jake Wallace or up-and-coming sophomore Cole Parkinson.

In terms of offense, Hart looks loaded, with five solid wide receivers and Connor Wingenroth at running back, while Canyon should continue its high-flying ways with Apsay at quarterback.

Canyon’s defense is also trying to capitalize on a surge late last season.

Golden Valley looks to open things up a little more with the departure of University of Wisconsin running back Leon Jacobs, while West Ranch is hopeful Killingsworth will improve an offense that struggled mightily through the air last season.

At Saugus, the Centurions are expecting an experienced defense — with nine returning starters — will help it improve on last season’s 3-9 record.

Girls Golf

The 2013 Foothill League season looks bright in girls golf, with returning All-SCV Player of the Year Jamie Corr back at Hart for her senior season.

Along with her sister, sophomore Katie Corr, the Indians have a strong duo at the top.

Elisa Pierre shot out of the gates during her freshman season for Golden Valley, earning league runner-up honors and helping the Grizzlies make the team postseason for the first time in school history. The loss of the school’s most accomplished girls golfer, though, in Amanda Hobbs, will be a difficult void to fill.

The future is also bright at West Ranch with the return of sophomore Josie Lionetti.

Girls Tennis

After winning a share of its first Foothill League title since 1998 last season, the Hart Indians appear to be in a great position to repeat as champions.

With the best singles lineup in the league — senior Jackie Resler, junior Proyfon Lohaphaisan and sophomore Natalia Munoz — Hart may be the preseason favorites to take the title.

But as it proved last season, Valencia can never be counted out. The Vikings won a share of the title last season, but lost singles player Brigitta Benitez and doubles player Ashley Keith, who teamed with junior Tina Inchalik to go 28-1 and win the Foothill League title, to graduation and will need to reload fast to maintain Hart’s pace.

Saugus will try to compete for a playoff spot under new head coach Ken Jeffries, who spent seven seasons as the JV head coach before taking over for the departed Allan Hardbarger.

Golden Valley will look to continue its improvement under head coach Josh Stimac, but will have to do so without two-time All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year Rebecaa Ho, while Canyon will return sophomore Katrina DeGuzman, who was a standout as a freshman.

Girls Volleyball

The theme in girls volleyball this year is turnover. Only one player on last year’s Signal All-SCV first or second team returns this year, West Ranch’s Alexis Clewis. She’ll likely contend for Player of the Year honors this year and her team has a chance to vie for a Foothill crown.

Standing in the way will be the defending league champion Valencia Vikings and the 2012 second-place Hart Indians. Both teams will need to replace most of their top players from a season ago, though.

The three other league teams are all embarking on seasons with lots of new players and new head coaches. Eric Luckenbach takes over at the helm for Saugus, Brian Ingino will guide Canyon and Derek Saenz will coach Golden Valley.

 

Winter season

Boys Basketball

The top two returning players from last season are both Hart Indians — guards Myles Franklin and Lewis Stallworth. After that, West Ranch — winners of two straight league titles — will try to replace some top-level talent lost to graduation in Kevin Harris and Ako Kaluna. Canyon and Saugus should bring back a significant amount of young talent this season and should be in the mix, while Valencia may fill the lineup with some new blood.

Golden Valley comes into the season under first-year head coach Dan Alon.

Girls Basketball

Things will look a little bit different this season in girls basketball with the departure of Canyon greats Alia McCoy and Jaya Schultz, who both played on the varsity team for four years.

Last season, Canyon and Valencia split the league title, but the departure of the Vikings’ Kalia Summerlin could have a significant impact on Valencia as well.

Add West Ranch to the list of team’s with substantial losses, as All-SCV first teamers Whitney Branham and Hannah Green have both graduated and head coach Randy Smith has given way to first-year head coach Allison Moore.

How quickly each team fills its holes come the winter will go a long way in determining the Foothill League champion.

Look to Valencia senior Sandra Ikeora and sophomore Talia Roth to provide an inside presence for the Vikings this season, while senior Kali Vittallo should be a sharpshooting star for Canyon.

Boys Soccer

Though Valencia and West Ranch were the top two finishers in league, respectively, last year, both teams lost the bulk of their key players to graduation. That opens the door for teams like Hart and Golden Valley, which showed promise last year with young talent.

Saugus may also be in the mix while coming off a season plagued by injuries. Canyon, coming off a winless league season, enters year two of a rebuilding phase under second-year head coach Lou Aguilera. Golden Valley and West Ranch are both under the guidance of new head coaches this year, with Juan Paolo at Golden Valley and Fausto Arana at West Ranch.

Girls Soccer

The Valencia girls soccer team blew through the Foothill League last season, winning the title with an undefeated 8-0-2 record.

The team lost All-SCV Player of the Year Taylor Venegas and first teamer Lindsay Bos to graduation, but return a group of solid seniors in Kristen Uy, Eryn Spencer, Rebecca Harrison and Samantha Simon.

Hart will look to battle for a title in its first season under head coach Guilherm Mitrovich, who replaces the departed Justin Lundin.

Saugus is hoping to rebound after a fourth-place finish, while Canyon is hoping to continue an impressive surge that saw the Cowboys finish third and vie for a league title for most of the season.

Golden Valley failed to win a game in league play last season, and lost All-SCV selections Gabby Lopez and Michela James.

 

Spring season

Baseball

As closely contested as the Foothill League was last year, there may not be much of a drop-off in 2013-14. Many of the league’s top hitters are set to return, including Cal-Hi Sports All-State Underclass players Chad Bible of Valencia and Jagger Rusconi of West Ranch.

That’s without mentioning the defending co-champion Canyon Cowboys or teams like Hart, which features Area Code Games participant Nick Valaika, and Saugus which, despite losing records last season, were constantly playing tight games against the league’s top teams.

Boys Golf

Like on the girls side, Golden Valley enters the season with a top sophomore golfer who has helped put the Grizzlies on the map.

Jonathan Kang was the medalist at Foothill No. 5 last season and earned All-SCV First team honors.

Another sophomore, Kameron Hobbs, was named All-SCV honorable mention last season and should provide Golden Valley with a solid one-two punch.

Across the valley, West Ranch will deal with departed All-SCV Player of the Year Joey Downey. Fellow Wildcat Casey May has also graduated, meaning West Ranch has some serious holes to fill. Senior Jack McClafferty could be one golfer to watch in that role.

Hart lost Nick Negrosa, but returns solid senior Glen Lee, while Saugus’ Braden Lewis will be back for the Centurions as a senior.

Softball

Can anyone stop West Ranch after the Wildcats won their second straight Foothill League title, this time in undefeated fashion?

The target is squarely on West Ranch’s back, but the departure of All-SCV Player of the Year Kylie Sorenson, second baseman Haley Hineman and catcher Lauren Lombardi.

Saugus, which was picked by the league’s coaches to win the league title last season, looks to be in an even better position this season with Oklahoma commit and starting pitcher Mariah Lopez and UCLA commit and shortstop Maddy Jelenicki leading the way.

Perennial power Valencia shouldn’t be overlook, either, but the loss of power-hitting first baseman and Penn State commit Kristina Brackpool will be hard to replace.

Third baseman Nicole Joseph should help to make up for the loss of power while leadoff hitting Ally Johnson will likely continue to blossom as a sophomore.

Hart will need someone to step up in the circle and once again has a lot of power to make up for, but the Indians could compete, as should Canyon with the return of Lexi Lotito providing one of the Cowboys’ top storylines of 2013.

Golden Valley is another question mark heading into 2013, but the Grizzlies have shown improvement on the diamond the last two seasons and should be competitive in 2013.

Swimming

The Foothill League should be loaded again come spring, and to no surprise Saugus junior Abbey Weitzeil should carry the Foothill League torch once again.

Her quest for two more CIF-Southern Section championships is the top storyline entering the swim season. And with a Masters Meet set to be revived this season, Weitzeil could be out for even more victories.

Around the league, Hart looks to continue its record stretch of 31 of the last 32 girls Foothill League titles and 18 straight boys titles. Hart will be led by juniors Mik Ranslem and Tamara Santoyo on the girls side and Matt Johnson and Cole Cogswell on the boys side.

Valencia, which pressured Hart on the boys side this season, will be in good position to do so again with sophomore Kevin Dai leading the pack.

With a new coach at Canyon and talented swimmers coming up through the ranks at West Ranch and Golden Valley, it should be another exciting year in the pool.

Track and Field

Bits and pieces of Golden Valley’s groundbreaking league champion girls track and field team will return. That includes top sprinters Azaria Hill and Crystal Orellana. Others returning after appearances at last year’s state finals will be Saugus junior distance runners Sabrina Janes and Ortega.

All-SCV Boys Athlete of the Year Jeremy Kimmer of Canyon is also returning to help lead Canyon to a league title defense. The Canyon boys split the Foothill crown with Golden Valley. Other key returning athletes with potential include Hart hurdler Conner West, Valencia sprinter Nick Jones and West Ranch thrower Nathan Bultman.

Boys Tennis

Valencia has owned the Foothill League for the last eight years, and it will be tough to knock this team off its perch with returning All-SCV Singles Player of the Year Chad LeDuff and returning All-SCV singles player Joey Fernicola scheduled to return. Also set to come back this season are All-SCV singles players Elliot Miller of Hart and Brandon Yu of Golden Valley.

 Boys Volleyball

West Ranch ended Valencia’s 12-year streak as league champions last year, but Valencia may come back with a vengeance despite missing the playoffs a year ago. While West Ranch graduated nearly its entire starting lineup, Valencia returns just about everyone, including promising junior Kyle Ensing. Saugus senior Max Nua should also contend with Ensing for All-SCV Player of the Year.

After top three finishes in league last year, both Saugus and Hart figure to contend again for a top spot. Canyon will be playing with Jeff Cody as its new head coach this season.

 

 

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