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A look ahead to the 2014-15 Foothill League season

Posted: August 6, 2014 9:55 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2014 9:55 p.m.

Canyon High's Taufahema helped lead the Cowboys to the CIF-SS Division IIA semifinals.

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We’ve handed out the awards for the season that was across all high school sports.

We’ve done our annual Year in Reviews for each athletic department in the Foothill League.

Now it’s time to look to the future.

We’ll take a quick peak into every sport across the Foothill League and touch on the top storylines, athletes and teams as we prepare for another season in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Fall season

Cross Country

For once, the pressure is on the Saugus boys coming in this year. Can they back up their state championship? It isn’t too much of a reach to call them a favorite when you consider that four of Saugus’ seven runners from the state title team return. That includes the team’s No. 1 guy, Brian Zabilski. Other top returners to keep an eye on this season will be Canyon’s Caleb McClain and West Ranch’s Tucker Welker, who were both top five finishers in last year’s league finals.

The Foothill League slate on the girls side looks particularly deep this fall. It will be led by the Saugus duo of Samantha Ortega and Sabrina Janes, who are both coming off injury-shortened track and field seasons. Others that appear to be primed for strong seasons include West Ranch’s Marisa Magsarili, Canyon’s Kyla Danforth and Valencia’s Kaylee Thompson.

Football

Hart’s CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship win over Valencia is likely what’s most fresh in the minds of SCV football fans, but it’s important to remember that Valencia still comes in as five-time defending league champions.

Even so, Hart will be a popular league champion pick once again with the heavily recruited quarterback-receiver combo of Brady White and Trent Irwin, along with a host of returning offensive lineman.

Meanwhile, Valencia and Canyon are each working with new starting quarterbacks this year after the graduation of Valencia’s Jake Wallace and Canyon’s Cade Apsay.

Both teams do have their weapons though, and both have shown the ability to reload quickly and handle Hart’s prolific offenses in the recent past.

Speaking of offense, Saugus has a lot of pieces returning on that side of the ball with Chris Hamilton under center for his third straight season.

West Ranch and Golden Valley are less predictable this season as both are adjusting to new coaching staffs. Jan Miller enters his second season with West Ranch and Dan Kelley is a first-year coach for Golden Valley.

Girls Golf

Pretty much every top golfer in the league will return. Most notably, the field will be led by reigning All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year Elisa Pierre of Golden Valley.

Other top golfers coming back are West Ranch’s Kate Caffrey and Ashley Mayhall, Hart’s Katie Corr, Valencia’s Eunice Song and Golden Valley’s Justine Reblando.

Girls Tennis

Two-thirds of Hart’s amazing singles lineup returns, with Proyfon Lohaphaisan and Natalia Munoz set to try to boost Hart to a third straight league title.

Valencia, led by top returners Tina Inchalik and Remy Balmain, won’t hand them the title though.

A young Canyon team might also be intriguing this year with junior-to-be Katrina DeGuzman in the No. 1 singles spot.

Girls Volleyball

Valencia won the league last year with a young team, which automatically makes them the overwhelming favorites to repeat this year with a senior-laded squad.

All-SCV Player of the Year Lindsey Knudsen and All-SCV first-teamer Emily Bible look to lead Valencia.

While West Ranch lost a lot of big players to graduation, Hart appears to be Valencia’s biggest challenger with fourth-year setter Erin Indermill coming in with returning All-SCV hitters Corrine Holloway and Claire Cansler at her disposal.

Winter season

Boys Basketball

Only one major part of Hart’s league championship basketball team is coming back this year, point guard Myles Franklin, which leaves the door open for a team like Canyon, Valencia or West Ranch to emerge.

Valencia will be the most interesting story to watch with former longtime Canyon head coach Chad Phillips taking over the program.

Canyon, meanwhile, is coming off a deep run to the CIF-Southern Section Division IIA semifinals, which was further than any other team. Standout guard Ben Taufahema looks to lead that team.

West Ranch has been a league title contender for the last three years and is always in the conversation.

We’ll also have to watch how first-year Saugus head coach Bill Bedgood tries to turn his program around.

Girls Basketball

With Chuck Johns stepping down as Canyon’s head coach, does this spell the end to that team’s five-year reign atop the league?

That will have to be a question answered by a Valencia team bringing back a bunch of young talent, including sophomore-to-be Kayla Konrad.

The teams that everyone will have to keep an eye on are Hart and Golden Valley, which both seem to be on an upward trajectory in the past couple years.

Both teams are coming off playoff appearances, with Golden Valley notching its first postseason win in school history.

The big question for West Ranch will be how to replace star guard Whitney Branham.

Boys Soccer

Defending league champion Hart returns one of its top scorers in Jeysen Rodriguez and arguably the best midfielder in the league in Derek Waldeck.

But as far as overall talent returning, Valencia might be atop the league with so many juniors stepping in last year.

After those top two contenders, it’s up in the air which team could move up the ranks. Could it be the 2011 and 2012 league champion West Ranch team? A former league power in Saugus? Or could it be an up-and-coming team like Golden Valley or Canyon?

Girls Soccer

It will be hard to top the drama that ensued last year when Hart, Valencia and Canyon battled it out in a three-way bout for the league title.

Hart came out on top and went on to play for a CIF championship. And although All-CIF player Danielle Spickard returns, a lot more key players from that team graduated.

Valencia and Canyon are both bringing back All-SCV first-team goalkeepers with Nicole Joseph in net for Valencia and Meghan Kennedy taking care of keeper duties for Canyon.

With the high amount of turnover in the league, it might also give a usually strong Saugus team an opportunity to bounce back from a couple of down years in a row.

Spring season

Baseball

Saugus’ Valley Invitational Baseball League championship win could very well be a precursor into a season of big potential for the Centurions.

Saugus’ Anthony Donatella and Eric Little should be the strongest one-two pitching combo in the league.

Then again, defending league champion Hart has two solid arms of its own coming with Jack Ralston and Paul Richan.

On the hitting side, Valencia first baseman Devin Davis and West Ranch shortstop Jagger Rusconi head into their senior seasons with a ton of potential and expectation.

Boys Golf

What’s in store for the Foothill League after Golden Valley’s Jonathan Kang charged forward to win league MVP and Hart pulled off a surprising league championship over West Ranch?

The good news is Kang and Hart’s top two players, Cory David and Michael Lotta, both return.

West Ranch failed to win league for the first time in six years this past spring, but promising young player Danny DiMaria could lead the team back to the top.

Softball

Practically every All-SCV first-team player is set to come back for the 2015 spring season, which bodes well for the Foothill League.

All eyes will be on Saugus pitcher and University of Oklahoma commit Mariah Lopez, who was All-SCV co-Player of the Year.

The big question will be whether or not anyone can dethrone West Ranch, winner of at least a share of the last three league titles.

This will also be a season to watch which young players like Saugus sophomore-to-be Cassidy Fitzgerald and Canyon junior-to-be Amanda Doyle can back up impressive 2014 campaigns.

Swimming

The storylines are simple for swimming. Is Hart’s long run on top of the league over now that the Valencia boys and girls teams knocked them off?

And in addition, what records will Saugus’ Abbey Weitzeil break next to finish her already outstanding high school career?

The Hart boys have defending CIF 100-yard freestyle champion Cole Cogswell coming back as a senior while Valencia has All-SCV first-teamer Kevin Dai.

On the girls side, Valencia has double CIF champion Nikol Popov and (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke) Hart has a host of returning talent.

Boys Tennis

West Ranch ended Valencia’s longtime grip on the Foothill League, but Valencia will be back with the league’s top singles player, Chad LeDuff.

The Vikings will also be with a new head coach after Annie Kellogg stepped down from her duties as boys coach.

The cupboard won’t be bear for West Ranch with Chris Gaw and Noah Morrow both returning after a strong season in doubles play.

Golden Valley’s Brandon Yu can also try to close out a strong four-year varsity career.

Track and Field

The obvious names to watch are the two state finalists who will return as seniors: West Ranch thrower Nathan Bultman and Saugus’ Zabilski.

Others to watch include Golden Valley’s handful of young athletes who helped the girls team win two straight league titles.

That includes sprinter Azaria Hill, sprinter/hurdler Crystal Orellana and defending league champion shot putter Nikaela Harris.

As defending league champions on the boys side, Canyon returns sprinter/jumper Steven Childs and sprinter Austin Stevens, who both helped the team win the league 4x100-meter relay title.

Other returning league champions include West Ranch’s Adaugo Oguejifor (100 hurdles), Hart’s Liz Sulaiman (long jump) and Valencia’s Kaitlyn Matthews (high jump).

Boys Volleyball

Other than All-SCV Player of the Year Kyle Ensing, not too many prominent players return to the fold in the Foothill League this spring.

Though many core players moved on from Valencia, it will be tough to knock the league champions off simply because of Ensing. The same teams will be contending, West Ranch and Saugus, while Hart tries to bounce back from a down year and both Canyon and Golden Valley try to take another step forward.

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