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2013-14 Valencia Year in Review

Posted: July 7, 2014 10:49 p.m.
Updated: July 7, 2014 10:49 p.m.

Valencia outside hitter Lindsey Knudsen was The Signal's All-Santa Clarita Valley Girls Volleyball Player of the Year this past season.

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It’s become expected of Valencia athletics to stand among the top of the Santa Clarita Valley.

And while this year provided its share of impressive accomplishments, it was also a season of change and the end of some long, successful coaching eras.

But the biggest moment for Valencia came with the simultaneous Foothill League boys and girls swim championships on May 8 at the league finals.

It was the first league title for either program in school history and, more importantly, it ended a long stretch of dominance by the Hart swim teams.

The Hart girls had won 31 of the last 32 league crowns and the Hart boys team had won the last 18.

Both of those streaks ended in one of Valencia’s most glorious day of the season.

The league titles were won with the help of Signal All-Santa Clarita Valley swimmers Nikol Popov, Sophie Fiscella, Kevin Dai, Jack Kerchner and Jessie Kim.

Popov was especially incredible this season as the freshman went on to win two CIF-Southern Section Division I titles in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke.

The theme of Valencia vs. Hart was a common one throughout the season. The rivalry reached its peak during football season, when Valencia clinched its fifth straight Foothill crown with a 24-19 win over Hart on Nov. 1 in what many considered to be an upset victory.

Valencia would later advance to the CIF-SS Northern Division championship game, where it lost 28-21 in a thrilling rematch with Hart.

Valencia players selected to the Northern Division All-CIF team included wide receiver Nick Jones, wide receiver Jay Jay Wilson, defensive lineman Jourdan Nguyen and kicker Cole Murphy.

But with the highlights of the season also came the newsworthy moments, many of them related to coaches.

The school’s head baseball coach since 1998, Jared Snyder, took a sudden leave of absence from his teaching and coaching job in the middle of baseball season. The leave of absence came amid parental accusations of ethical and financial wrongdoings.

Even so, Valencia rallied to finish second place in the Foothill League. It was later announced that Mike Killinger would take over as the new permanent head coach following his stint as the interim coach for the latter half of the season.

Meanwhile, on the field, Valencia shortstop Keston Hiura put together an incredible season during which he cranked a state-leading 14 home runs on his way to being named All-SCV Player of the Year, All-CIF and All-State, according to Cal-Hi Sports.

Just days after Killinger was hired as the permanent baseball coach, the school relieved head boys basketball coach Rocket Collins of his duties after 13 years.

Two weeks later, the school hired former Canyon coach Chad Phillips to take over the hoops program.

And the changes didn’t stop there. Longtime Valencia head tennis coach Annie Kellogg stepped down as the boys coach while remaining with the girls program.

Kellogg has been with both teams since 1996, winning nine league titles along the way.

It was also announced at the conclusion of the spring season that Jeff Gilkey chose to no longer coach Valencia’s cross country and track and field programs, which he had guided since 2009.

But despite the transition in many sports, there were a lot of noteworthy moments along the way.

The two swim titles and the football team represented three of Valencia’s seven Foothill championships this year, which tied Hart for the most by any school.

Valencia girls basketball — led by co-Foothill Player of the Year Sandra Ikeora — shared a league title with Canyon.

Valencia girls soccer earned its second straight league crown, sharing it with Hart. That team was led by a core of strong Valencia players with Sammy Simon, Becca Harrison and goalkeeper Nicole Joseph.

On top of that, both the Valencia girls and boys volleyball teams maintained their local superiority by winning league titles.

Valencia outside hitter Lindsey Knudsen was the Foothill and All-SCV Player of the Year.

In the spring, Valencia junior Kyle Ensing easily earned the same two honors with his dominant performance that included a school-record 469 kills.

Despite the fact that neither tennis team won league titles as a team, there was still individual success with Chad LeDuff winning the boys singles league crown in the spring while Tina Inchalik and Remy Balmain teamed up to win the league doubles title in the fall.

The spring season then concluded with Valencia’s Briana Pica pole vaulting her way to the CIF-SS Masters Meet for the second straight year.

Valencia proved that success doesn’t need to be a casualty of change.

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