Valley Center High School winter sports preview
December 01, 2013Boys basketball
Over the past several years, the Valley Center varsity boys basketball team has established itself as a successful program that can contend with much larger schools in the area.
Photos by Dan Kidder
Under head coach Bob Purdy, the Jaguars grew from a team that won only six games in 2006-07, Purdy's first year as head coach, to a team that went 23–7 overall and 9–1 in league last season and advanced to the semifinal round of the CIF Division III playoffs.
But Coach Purdy rode off into the sunset of retirement after last season, and new head coach Jon Jones takes the reins of a team that's eager to build on the successes of last year.
Coach Jones comes to Valley Center after graduating from Rancho Buena Vista High School and Cal State San Marcos. He's been coaching middle school and high school basketball for the past 14 years, including a stint as the Valley Center frosh coach last year. He is also in his second year as an English teacher at VCHS after teaching and coaching at Valley Middle School in Carlsbad.
The Jags lost most of their starting lineup from last season, as six seniors graduated: John Broomell, Brett Henderson, Ryan Kleiman, Michael McInerny, Mitchell Rush and David Becvar.
Although the team may look quite a bit different with so many new faces, the Jaguars have a trio of returning players to help anchor the incoming group.
Junior James Schwindt enters his third year on the varsity team as the starting point guard and Coach Jones says that the team will rely on his tremendous work ethic and his leadership on the floor.
Sophomore Terrance Becvar also returns for his second year on the varsity team and will fill the role of the shooting guard. Known for his excellent shooting and hard work, Becvar is a player who can change the game with one shot.
And senior Derikie Blaze also comes back to the team after getting called up to the varsity level midway through last season. Coach Jones sees Blaze taking over the power forward spot for the Jaguars.
Another player called up for the playoffs last season is Luke Konyn, a junior guard who makes the move to full-time varsity action this season.
In the middle, senior center Domenic Antonacci brings his excellent size, work ethic and positive attitude to the Jags, while sophomore Steven Much is a forward that Coach Jones says "Will be asked to do a little bit of everything this season."
Jacob Andreas is a sophomore guard/forward who Coach Jones says is an excellent athlete that will provide the team with some excellent versatility on both offense and defense and should push for a starting role.
And senior Raymond Torres brings a penchant for the long-range shot to the team and is expected to compete for time at the shooting guard and small forward positions.
"The team is loaded with good character and each of our student athletes is committed to giving their best," Coach Jones says. "We also have a great level of competition, as we have many players still working hard to get valuable minutes. We only return one starter from last year, and we're moving from division three to division one, so we know we're going to have our hands full, but we will definitely try to rise and meet the challenge. Hopefully by the time league rolls around we have built a solid rotation, and the team has gelled. Del Norte, Oceanside, and Ramona are probably the early favorites in our league, but we will be fighting to represent Valley Center well in the Valley League."
Anytime a team loses 11 seniors to graduation, including a pair of team captains, it's reasonable to expect that there may be some growing pains in figuring out what's next.
But even as the Valley Center varsity boys soccer team seeks to replace those 11 departed seniors, a solid crop of returning players is ready to step up and take the lead for the Jaguars under a new head coach with a lot of soccer experience.
Taking over as head coach is Dale Blasius, who has been coaching soccer for the Valley Center Hurricanes since 2004. His past coaching resume also includes assisting at Northern Arizona University in the swimming program, and taking Arcadia High School girls swimming to four straight state championships.
Living in Valley Center for ten years, this will be Coach Blasius's first year as the varsity coach. He is joined by varsity assistant coaches Eric Reser and former VCHS varsity soccer player Eddie Alba, along with JV coach Julio Ruiz and returning freshman coach Jovanni Ruiz.
The Jags will certainly miss so many key players, as they lost team captains Anthony Cozzi and Joe Monzon, along with Jose Hernandez, Oscar Venegas, Osbaldo Bojorquez, Stefano DaSilva, Miguel Mondragon, Genaro Rodriguez, Victor Garcia, Aaron Coplin and Jake Reden.
But the team has two returning starters—seniors Jason Blasius, who plays on defense, and Gavin Marcon, the goal keeper—and a trio of returning defenders in Paul Schaner, Thomas Stehly and Julian Flores who are expected to play key roles this season.
"While we lost eleven seniors from last year, we have some exciting new players coming up as juniors and sophomores to add to our seniors on the team," said Coach Blasius. "We'll be playing in division four, but our league has some of the toughest competition in North County, with Del Norte, Orange Glen and Oceanside in the mix. Our boys will be training hard and look forward to representing Valley Center well in the upcoming year. We're hoping to be an aggressive, attacking team with some amazing speed in our attacking positions."
Taking over as a new head coach for any team can be a stressful undertaking, but any new coach has to be happy to take over a team as successful as the Valley Center varsity wrestling team was last year.
Wes Jones takes over as the head coach for Clay Clifford, who retired from the head coaching duties, but still maintains an assistant coach position with the team.
Coach Jones comes to VCHS after nine years of coaching elsewhere—two years as an assistant at San Marcos High School, his alma mater; three years as an assistant at Murrieta Valley High in Riverside County; and four years as the head coach at Beckman High in Orange County.
He's excited to come back to North County to coach, and all the more so given that the Jaguars won seven tournament trophies, including the CIF Division IV title, and boasted five individual CIF champions.
The new coach may have a hard time replacing graduated seniors Manny Boyle, Christian Guererro, James Oakley and Trevor Ryback, but he will have a handful of returning wrestlers looking to leave their own mark on the mat this year.
Seniors Lorenzo Gomez, Garrett Castner, Jorge Beltran, Matt McCaghren and Jairo Diaz are joined by junior Kyle Xu and sophomore Andrew Navarro as the top returning wrestlers.
And joining the team this year are senior Ryan Villalobos, juniors Trevor Ryan and Kim Caleb, and sophomores Climaco Morales and Yashua Garcia.
Girls water polo
It's never easy to replace the key players gone to graduation after an outstanding season, but the Valley Center varsity girls water polo team has a handful of talented returning players that are eager to keep the Lady Jaguar legacy of success afloat.
The Lady Jags lost five seniors to graduation—Caitlin Murphy, Alisha Kish, Sarah Dixon, Maddy Daugherty and Macy Morrison—from a team that came within one game of winning a second consecutive league title.
But coming back to the team are seniors Makaila Keeley and Stephainie McCaulley, along with junior Samantha Gonzalez and sophomore Casia Morrison to lead the Lady Jags back to the top.
Head coach Kyle Kline also expects some new players to contribute this year as well.
"There will be some new players this year," he says. "I don't know who yet but we are definitely going to have some newer players hopefully stepping up to fill some shoes as we graduated a lot of seniors."
It's no secret that the Valley Center varsity girls basketball team struggled last season, going from a league title in 2011-12 to a team that won only eight games last year.
But head coach Tony Casillas and the rest of the Lady Jaguar supporters saw a team that evolved from a group of girls whose first six losses came with an average margin of defeat of more than 24 points to a squad that grew together, played together and finished the season with a pair of wins.
Gone to graduation are point guard Vinessa Perryman and forward Darin Gilmore, a pair that combined to score two-thirds of the team's total points in the season, including Perryman's 503 points, nearly half of Valley Center's 1,055 points on the year.
Returning for the Lady Jags are seniors Perris Toedt, Caitlyn Simons and Melinda Olson, along with juniors Sukmal Turner and Bailey Gilmore and sophomore Charlotte Connell.
And the newcomers joining the team will be juniors Kaylin Ryan and Dana Durant, sophomores Cheyanna Phelps and Chelsea Pratko, and freshman Reese Henderson.
"The team has a good mixture of experience and youth, and we are blessed with a big front court," Coach Casillas says of the six-foot-three Pratko and the six-foot-two Phelps. "We're very solid at the four spot with Sukmal Turner, Bailey Gilmore and Caitlyn Simons with some speed in the back court that includes captain Paris Toedt, who is a great leader on the floor.
Our weakness is not a lot of game time together as a team, so we will need to develop as the season moves forward and build towards league."
After a solid season on the pitch last year, the Valley Center varsity girls soccer team heads into the new season with a new head coach and an outstanding group of returning players.
Joshua Jones takes over the helm for his first year with the team, and he looks to take the Lady Jaguars past the first round of the CIF playoffs, where they lost to Santana 3–2 in a heartbreaker to end the season.
The team lost four key players to graduation-- Melina Heredia Vanessa Heredia, Micaela McMurdo and goalie Kaley Prudham—but has returning seniors Savanna Reilly, Leina Villemez and Julia Stone, along with juniors Kiana Diefenbach and Racquel Cifuentes, coming back to anchor the team.