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EPISODE #92
CATHOLIC SPORTS VIEW: GUESTS ARE DAN ALBANO AND NATALIE BERTY

Host Bob Gibson interviews coaches and players throughout the various Catholic high schools in Orange County. His Twitter handle is: @catholicsv

Today’s guests is include:

  • Dan Albano (OC Varsity section from the Orange County Register);
  • Natalie Berty (Trinity League Athlete of the Year – from Mater Dei H.S.)

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 6/29/19

STATE OF THE GAME: VOLLEYBALL

Somewhat lost in the ongoing dominance of the Mater Dei boys’ basketball team, or the girls’ soccer program at JSerra, or the swimmers who have set national records and won countless titles for Santa Margarita, has been the enviable

streak built by the Mater Dei boys’ volleyball team. 

The Monarchs have won the past four Trinity League titles and 35 straight league matches in that span. 

“It’s our preparation,” Mater Dei coach Pat Connolly told the Orange County Register last April. “I’ve also been very fortunate to have great kids and great coaches who treat every match very preciously.” 

Mater Dei is led this season by 6-foot-5 senior outside hitter Joey Farney, a first-team all-Trinity League selection last spring. Ryan Green is a solid second option for sure-handed setter David Linkletter. 

The Monarchs posted a confidence-building early-season win on Feb. 27, defeating Huntington Beach in five games after being down 2-games-to-1 in the Oilers’ gym. 

Huntington Beach came in ranked No. 4 in Orange County and Mater Dei No. 6 by OC Varsity. 

“Beating Huntington in a fifth set is just huge for us right now,” Farney told the Daily Pilot. “It gives us a lot of mental focus and strength.” 

Servite was ranked No. 5 at the end of February, right between Mater Dei and Huntington Brach, setting up an interesting Trinity League opener on March 15 at Servite. 

The Friars were the last team to beat the Monarchs in a Trinity League match, a four-game victory on April 16, 2015 at Mater Dei. 

Since then, the Monarchs have won eight straight matches and 23 of 27 games against the Friars, a streak that includes seven league matches and a best-of-three match at the Redondo tournament in 2016.  

Servite is led by its own returning first-team all-league selection in Chris Morikawa, a versatile opposite hitter who can also set, dig and block as well as any player in the league. 

Servite made noise in the opening month of the season by reaching the final of the ultra-competitive Redondo tournament.  

The Friars posted best-of-three wins against Calabasas (2-1), San Pedro (2-0), Peninsula (2-1), Thousand Oaks (2-0), Tesoro (2-0) and Newbury Park (2-0) before losing 2-1 in the finals to Los Alamitos. 

Tesoro was ranked No. 3 in Orange County at the end of February and Los Alamitos was ranked No. 7. 

Santa Margarita should test both Mater Dei and Servite this season as well. 

The Eagles have the third returning first-team all-league pick from last season in senior setter Shane Suxho, who has signed with USC. Suxho’s father is Donald Suxho, who played for the U.S. at the 2004 and 2012 Summer Olympics. 

Suxho has two excellent options off the set in 6-5 sophomore outside hitter Noah Keelin and 6-2 senior outside hitter Evan Geiger, both second-team all-league selections last season. 

Santa Margarita opens league play March 18 at Orange Lutheran before traveling to Mater Dei on March 20. 

JSerra is also off on the right foot. 

The Lions posted one of the surprising wins of the early season when they beat Laguna Beach in three games on the opening day of the Tesoro tournament on Feb. 16. Laguna Beach was ranked No. 10 in Orange County at the end of February.

EAGLES’ HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

Most of the players on the Santa Margarita girls’ volleyball team weren’t around when Chrissy Bloomgren’s spike hit the floor 18 years earlier. 

The feeling was likely mutual when Sarah Ciszek’s spike practically knocked over a player from James Logan of Union City on Dec. 1, securing the final point as the Eagles toppled the Colts in three games to win their second CIF-State title in school history. 

Then they celebrated like it was 1999. 

The other state championship was clinched on Dec. 4, 1999, when Bloomgren finished off St Francis of Mountain View in four games to earn the Division II crown. 

A big difference between that team and the most current one is the 1999 squad preceded their state championship with league and Southern Section titles. 

The 2017 team won neither leading up to their state run. 

Santa Margarita beat Mater Dei and JSerra the first time through league play, but lost to both the second time around and finished a game behind Mater Dei in second place. 

“I’m proud of the girls for ending on a high note,” Santa Margarita coach Katy Daly told the OC Register after winning the state title. “They played together really well. It’s a great end to their season.” 

It’s hard to believe the Eagles had to wait 18 years to win their second state title in girls’ volleyball. Santa Margarita has been the dominant team in the Trinity League, winning nine league championships between 2005 and 2016, but making just one trip to the state championships. 

The Eagles seemed even more of a longshot to win state this season after Meghan McClure graduated last spring. McClure was a three-time Trinity League most valuable player and a two-time PrepVolleyball.com first-team all-American.  

McClure’s talent is now on display at the college level, where she was a full-time starter as a freshman at Stanford this fall, helping the Cardinal into the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. 

Santa Margarita certainly felt McClure’s loss during the season, failing to win the league title for the first time in the past three years, and then falling to Redondo Union in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS Division 1 championships. 

The Eagles peaked at the right time, however, losing just one game in four matches on their way to the state finals. 

Santa Margarita swept Palisades of Pacific Palisades in the opening round, then followed with sweeps against Santiago of Corona and the Bishop’s of La Jolla. The Eagles then knocked off San Juan Hills in four games to reach the finals, and that may have been their best match of the season. 

Ciszek led the way with 15 kills, fellow outside hitter Taylor Heberle had 11 kills and UCLA-bound setter Devon Chang contributed 34 assists in the 25-19, 25-12, 25-13 victory. 

Daly was especially impressed with senior libero Ashley Chow, who finished with 20 digs. 

“She plays with a lot of discipline and is very structured and it showed tonight,” Daly said of Chow. “She makes it look easy.” 

The Eagles could be in for another rebuilding year next season, as 11 of the 16 players on varsity were seniors, including five of the top six kill leaders. 

The player they’ll likely county on heavily is Heberle, a junior who finished fourth on the team with 208 kills.  

TRINITY LEAGUE ATHLETE PROFILE: KYLIE PRIES

Kylie Pries began playing volleyball through a club program at the age of nine and felt a strong connection with the game.

Now a sophomore at JSerra Catholic High School, the two-year varsity starter and 6’2” middle blocker for the Lady Lions cherishes the many friendships she’s been able to develop through the sport.

“I think it’s a fun sport to play,” says the 15-year-old.

 

With commitments to both her high school and club teams, Pries feels there’s something unique about being a part of a team that represents her high school, where teammates are also classmates.

“I think it’s fun because we get to see how much we’ve accomplished and throughout the year,” says Pries of competing for JSerra.

On the flip side, Pries admits that competing for her spot on the team, especially coming in as a freshman to the varsity squad, has been challenging both mentally and physically. The process has brought about a new level of appreciation.

“I think I’ve learned to always appreciate what life gives me and not take anything for granted,” says Pries.

JSerra’s girls volleyball varsity head coach, Mike Murphy, has a long history of coaching Pries on club teams since she was in elementary school and appreciates the level of skill and professionalism she brings to the Lady Lions’ program.

“Kylie has terrific rhythm as an attacker which allows our setter to connect with her in and out of system,” says Murphy. “She’s definitely a go-to hitter for us, and we can often count on Kylie to hit .400 – .600 each match. She’s a standout teammate who has gained the respect of upperclassmen.”

Murphy states that Pries is also a member of JSerra’s varsity beach volleyball team, “JSand,” where she competes on the school’s top team.

Away from the sport, Pries is involved with her church family at Mariners Church Ocean Hills, where the San Juan Capistrano resident works with the children’s program as well as the church’s Vacation Bible School event held each summer.

Although just in her second year of high school, Pries already has plans for her future in the sport, as she recently committed to the University of San Diego (USD), where she will continue her volleyball career with the Toreros.

Having both a father and grandfather who saw success in sports, Pries views both of them as her role models and relies on them for support as they encourage her to do her best on and off the court. Her faith plays into that as well, as Pries knows God’s plan for her as an athlete and a person are paramount.

“I think God is with me,” says Pries, “and I trust that he knows what he’s doing with my volleyball career.”

FLYING HIGH

The 2016 girls’ volleyball season was one of the best in the history of the Trinity League.

Santa Margarita was largely responsible.

The Eagles, led by standout outside hitter Meghan McClure and libero Julianna Reisinger, won the league title with an 8-0 record. They didn’t stop there, toppling league rival Mater Dei to capture the CIF-SS Division I championship and marching all the way to the CIF State Open Division finals.

Even though McClure will soon pack her bags and head north to Stanford and Reisinger to Purdue, the cupboards are hardly bare at Santa Margarita.

The Eagles are expected to be the team to beat again, as Orange County Register first-team all-county selections Sarah Ciszek and Devon Chang return for their senior years, as well as second-teamer Haley Carmo.
But the Eagles can expect another big push from Mater Dei, which returns a host of talented players who provide an edge in overall depth.

Kyla Waiters is a 6-foot-2 middle blocker who made second-team all-county as a junior last season. The Monarchs will also have one of the top defensive players in the league in senior libero Kelsey Campeau and another steady outside hitter in Abby Van Winkle, both of whom committed to UCLA last summer.

Kristina Pepek, a junior middle blocker, Natalie Berty, a junior outside hitter, and Mia Tuaniga, a sophomore opposite hitter, also turned heads as underclassmen last season and the trio should take on even bigger roles this fall.
Santa Margarita, Mater Dei and JSerra will remain in Division I for the postseason, Orange Lutheran will stay in Division II and Rosary in Division III.

Orange Lutheran, which reached the quarterfinals in its division last season, seems to have the best shot at knocking off Santa Margarita and Mater Dei in league play. The Lancers will be led by 6-5 senior setter Courtney Buzzerio, who has committed to Indiana.

Santa Margarita and Mater Dei will have short summers, as they’re scheduled to open their seasons at the Ann Kang Invitational in Honolulu, a 16-team tournament scheduled Aug. 10-12. Santa Margarita won the tournament in 2015 and finished second last year.

The Eagles and Monarchs could also collide at the Durango Classic in Las Vegas in mid-September, but they’ll definitely meet in a Trinity League match Sept. 21 at Santa Margarita and again Oct. 10 at Mater Dei.
McClure, who was the Division I player of the year last season, will be the toughest player to replace in the Trinity League.

She finished her senior season with 483 kills, 233 digs, 61 blocks and 24 aces. She was a valuable starter all four years on the varsity and her experience and encouraging voice was a calming influence in big matches.
Ciszek will be counted on to fill some of that void at the net. She showed she can put up good numbers, finishing with 205 kills, 22 blocks and 21 aces last season.

“She was a force at the net,” Santa Margarita coach Katy Daly told the Register. “She was a go-to player for the Eagles and really stepped up and had a tremendous season.”

Ciszek will benefit from having one of the top setters in the nation in Chang, a four-year varsity starter who has committed to California.

ATHLETE PROFILE: COURTNEY GOMEZ

When it came to deciding on her sport of choice, Courtney Gomez didn’t need to look for help any further than her own family.

“I was in fourth grade when I first started volleyball,” says Gomez. “I wanted to play because my mom played when she was in high school, and she got me into volleyball.”

 

 

The Cornelia Connelly High School junior and two-year varsity starter plays setter for the Koalas and is a key component of both the school’s team and program.

“From my first practice with Courtney, I knew she was a great athlete and would become an asset to our program,” says Connelly varsity volleyball head coach, Megan Marrujo. “As a varsity starter for the past two seasons, she has basically never left the court. She brings a lot of energy and hard work into every practice and game. Being a setter, she controls the tempo of the game and she is one of the few players that touches the ball in almost every play. Courtney has grown tremendously over the past two years, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for her.”

For Gomez, it’s the team aspect of the game that gives her the most satisfaction as an athlete, along with the energy she receives from their fan base.

“I like being on a team and the atmosphere it gives with the fans,” says the 15-year-old. “Something that’s great is that our teachers are always at our volleyball games, and we always have parents in the stands. So that makes me feel good.”

As the Fullerton resident looks to the next season, Gomez sees the perfect opportunity to grow both as a player and a leader, utilizing her experience on the team to help bring up the younger players. She also hopes to help push the Koalas to be even more competitive, while leaning on their shared faith as a place to start.

“Having a team [where] we all share in the same beliefs helps me have a better support system,” says Gomez.

Time management and the balance between school and sports is something Gomez continues to work on, but she acknowledges the continual presence and support of her parents as a major source of her motivation.

“I’ve learned that my parents are a big factor in my life,” says Gomez. “They’ve always been there for me.”

Her role model when it comes to being an athlete does not come from the world of volleyball. Instead, Gomez cites former NBA star and Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, as someone who inspires her both on and off the court.

“He has such a drive for the game,” says Gomez. “That encourages me to have a drive for my sport.”

TRINITY LEAGUE ATHLETE PROFILE: GARRETT RHORER

Garrett Rhorer’s mother knew best when she took her son to a volleyball tryout when he was in 7th grade. Having played volleyball in high school and college herself, she felt the sport would be a perfect fit for her son. He initially thought otherwise.

 

 

“So she drags me to the tryout, kicking and screaming,” says Rhorer. “I did not want to play. And then after the tryout—it was the craziest thing—I immediately fell in love with the sport, and [have] been playing ever since.”

The Santa Margarita Catholic High School senior plays middle blocker for the Eagles, a position where he feels right at home, as he does in the sport.

“I just love the super fast pace, just the nature of the game,” says Rhorer of volleyball. “I love how energetic it gets. I feel that it’s the right fit for me.”

As a captain on the team, Rhorer has adopted much of his leadership style from the seniors before him, whom he greatly admires.

“They were all really good friends of mine, and I looked up to them heavily,” says Rhorer. I kind of just adopted their characteristics and…I try to lead [the younger teammates] both on and off the court.”

After having graduated seven seniors from last year’s team, Rhorer’s leadership has been key for this young group.

“Garrett has been the stabilizing force for us this year,” says Santa Margarita boys volleyball varsity head coach, Justin DeBlasio. “He leads by example and always comes ready to work hard. Our younger players look up to him and can understand what it takes to be successful.”

His years competing in volleyball have taught Rhorer that the recipe for success goes far beyond skill level.

“The main lessons I’ve learned…would be leadership, teamwork and team chemistry,” says Rhorer. “I’ve learned that teamwork is needed to be successful. Leadership is earned, and not just given to you.”

Away from the court, Rhorer enjoys serving the senior citizens in his community and gives of his time at local chapters of Age Well Senior Services and Meals on Wheels.

The Mission Viejo resident is headed to Ft. Worth, TX where he will attend Texas Christian University and play club volleyball, as well as study business. In addition to the seniors who have come before him, he considers his parents to be significant role models. And while Rhorer admits that faith was not originally a significant part of his life, attending a Santa Margarita retreat changed his viewpoint.

“It opened up my eyes to God and revealed things to me that I hadn’t noticed before, how to cherish my friends and family and appreciate what God has given to me in my life,” says Rhorer. “It’s really helped me through these last few months. And I thank God for that every day.”

TRINITY LEAGUE ATHLETE PROFILE: NOLAN FALEY

After getting his start in volleyball as a fifth grader on his elementary school team, it didn’t take long for Nolan Faley to take a liking to the sport.

“It’s so instantaneous. You’ve got to be ready for everything,” says Faley of volleyball. “You can’t really prepare for one single situation, so that’s what makes it fun. It’s really magnetic. It pulls you back each week, and you just want to keep playing.”

 

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=b0DirJnxcMk

 

 The Servite High School senior is a returning varsity starter this year and plays the position of libero for the Friars, allowing him to be in a key role during the entire match.

“I love it because I’m a part of pretty much every play,” says Faley. “I just love bringing my energy…to the team when we’re in tight situations.”

As a senior, Faley is also in a leadership role, using his experience to help guide his younger teammates.

“Senior leadership is everything to me,” says the 18-year-old. “It’s our job to really set the tone. As a younger classman looking up to the seniors previously, I learned a lot about them and what they do. So now it’s my turn to leave my legacy.”

And it’s a role Servite varsity volleyball head coach, Matt Marrujo, feels Faley is prepared to take on.

“Nolan plays the game with a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” says Marrujo. “His teammates feed off the energy that he brings into every practice and match. As one of our seniors, we will be counting on Nolan to step into a leadership role for our team this season.”

Coming from a long line of family members who have attended Servite, representing his high school as a student athlete has been a “dream come true” for Faley, and he’d love to end his career as a Friar with a Trinity League Championship.

Away from the court, Faley is involved in a family project that is close to his heart, the Cal State Fullerton Special Games, Kathleen E. & Jack Faley Memorial, an annual non-competitive sporting event held for athletes with developmental disabilities.

The largest influence in Faley’s life has no doubt been his “big Irish Catholic Faley family,” as the Placentia resident feels each family member has been instrumental in the shaping of the young man he’s become.

Faley plans to study business marketing in college and hopes to continue playing volleyball at the club or intramural level. Both the sport and his faith have been significant in preparing him for his next steps.

“Everything I do, Christ is at the center,” says Faley. “All those opportunities that I have to pray and to get closer in my faith, those carry on the court. That’s the faith that I practice and that’s the faith that I bring onto the court. It really helps me.”

TRINITY LEAGUE ATHLETE PROFILE: JULIANNA REISINGER

As one of the taller students in her class during her elementary years, it was often suggested to Julianna Reisinger that she should play volleyball.

“People always told me I should take up volleyball,” says Reisinger. “I never had an interest in it. I kind of brushed it aside. I actually thought I wanted to be a soccer player.”

 

 

But watching the beach volleyball athletes during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, along with being in attendance when the Santa Margarita Catholic High School girls volleyball team won their CIF championship in 2008, solidified her decision try the sport.

“I was amazed,” says Reisinger, “and I said, ‘I know this is what I want to do.’”

Her decision proved to be a good one. As a captain on the team, the senior Eagle libero is a defensive specialist and excels at being placed in positions of leadership.

“I really love [playing libero] because it is naturally a leadership role,” says Reisinger. “I just love that…my teammates look to me as the one who’s making these defensive plays, and I love having that responsibility. I love knowing that my teammates are counting on me.”

The two-year varsity player had a chance to be a part of school history last fall as she and her fellow Eagles brought a girls volleyball CIF Championship back to campus, their first such title since Reisinger watched the 2008 squad complete the same goal. Alongside securing a Trinity League Championship, Reisinger and her teammates knew this was their year.

“We went into every single game looking at it as this is what’s preparing us,” says Reisinger. “The actual CIF (championship) game (versus league rival Mater Dei) is something I’ll never forget.”

Head varsity coach, Katy Daly, feels Reisinger was a huge contributor to the team’s success, as seen with her being named 1st Team All-CIF and 1st Team All-County.

“Julianna knows the game of volleyball and has a calm presence about her,” says Daly. “She was a great defensive player and allowed the Eagles to run a great offense.”

Away from the sport, Reisinger is a part of Santa Margarita’s Chamber Choir, as the Coto de Caza resident loves to sing. She is also a manager for the Eagles baseball team, and serves her community through organizations such as Lion’s Heart, National Honor Society and Stand Up To Cancer.

Reisinger is headed to Purdue University in the fall, where she will play volleyball for the Boilermakers in addition to studying engineering. She credits her grandmother, whose steady faith in the face of many trials has been inspiring for the 17-year-old.

“Faith is a huge part of my life,” says Reisinger. “I always try to remember that God has a plan for me. Things [may not be] going well right now, but there’s always something better that’s going to come right around the corner.”

 

A TALL ORDER

Hannah Patrick and Louise Kooiman can finish each other’s sentences as well as they finish a good set.

The senior volleyball players at Rosary have become quite familiar with each other in their four years on varsity, certainly closer than they’ve become with the new head coach they’ve welcomed each season.

The pair would like nothing more than to end their run at Rosary by competing in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, an experience that’s eluded them thus far in their high school careers.

“Four years of wanting it,” Patrick exclaimed after Rosary’s final nonleague match Sept. 20, a four-game victory against visiting Fullerton.

A change in the way teams are placed in playoff divisions this season has given the Royals a better chance at qualifying for the postseason. Rosary would compete in Division III this season after being labeled as a Division I team the last several years.

Mater Dei, Santa Margarita and JSerra would remain in Division I for the playoffs, and Orange Lutheran would land in Division II. If the Royals don’t finish in the league’s top three to earn an automatic qualifying berth, they would still have a chance at a wild-card spot, especially if they can win a match or two in league play.

That hasn’t happened in recent years, however.

Rosary hasn’t won a Trinity League match since 2012, the year before Patrick and Kooiman made varsity as wide-eyed freshmen.

“It will mean so much,” Kooiman said of a league win. “That’s really been our focus through preseason. We’re focusing on the team we’re playing, but we’re also focusing on how we can improve in order to make it to CIF.”

The challenges for Rosary have been more than most teams deal with, starting with the recurring coaching changes the last three years.

Filip Tomicic is the latest to take on that role and he brings a wealth of experience, having played for the Croatian national team before coming to the U.S. to play volleyball at Cal Baptist University in Riverside. He led the Lancers to the NAIA national championship in 2011, then played the following season at Cal State Northridge before finishing his playing career at Hope International in Fullerton.

This is Tomicic’s first head coaching stint at the high school level, having spent time as an age-group club coach and assistant at Mt. San Antonio College and Tustin High School.

Patrick and Kooiman said Tomacic brings the type of knowledge and experience that can make Rosary a playoff team.

“He brings a lot of good coaching technique and definitely the energy,” Kooiman said. “He makes practice fun, but they’re so intense. …He makes us want to win.”

The Royals showed their relentlessness during the nonleague portion of the schedule, posting a 6-4 record in best-of-three matches and winning all four that went five games.

They dropped the first game to Fullerton in the nonleague finale before storming back to win the next three. In the fourth game, they scored eight consecutive points to move to match point before finishing off the Indians.

Kooiman said it’s not a fluke that the Royals do better as the match wears on.

“We start to learn the team’s tendencies and we start to gel together,” she said. “With those tendencies, we’re able to adjust our defense and offense to work in our favor.”