Exciting Prep Girls Volleyball Season Ahead

The 2012 season was a year of firsts for Port of Los Angeles High girls’ volleyball. Its first year of being in a league (Ocean), ended up with the Polar Bears earning their first-ever berth in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division IV/V (Small Schools) playoffs. How did POLA take advantage? They made a magnificent run with three straight victories and was one more crucial set away from ending Elizabeth Learning Center’s dominance in the Division IV/V championship match.

However, the experience factor came into play, and POLA was left wondering what might have been as the Bulldogs went on to claim their third straight City title in five sets.

“It was amazing to be able to play as a team the whole year and really get to know each other,” says POLA senior middle blocker Allison Bayer. “On top of that to be able to play in championships together. We lost, but it was a huge way to go out with a bang for our many seniors.”

As the 2013 season begins, head coach Felicia Ivie and the Polar Bears are out for some unfinished business as they look to get back to the City Section Division IV/V championship match.

San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High are also looking to deliver in 2013 in a town that is synonymous with volleyball.

Mary Star was a CIF-Southern Section runner-up in 1998, while San Pedro claimed three CIF-Los Angeles City Section crowns in 2001, 2004 and 2005.

POLA (20-10 last season) will return a bevy of experience to the forefront as they will be paced by Bayer and fellow senior captain outside hitter Angela Wade, who, along with Bayer, were two of the biggest reasons why the Polar Bears reached the City Section Division IV/V final last season. Bayer, who is already a three-time City champion in softball, will be gunning for her fourth ring. She also won’t be alone as some of her fellow softball friends join her on the team this season.

Playing volleyball for the first time at POLA will be some softball players with championship experience in senior outside hitter Kelsea Short, junior defensive specialist Tiffany Torres and junior middle hitter Savana Ramirez. Another player eager for a championship after two straight finals appearances in girls’ soccer, junior opposite hitter Isabela Van Antwerp, will also be making her volleyball debut.

Wade, who is also a basketball standout, will be looking for a breakout season. Senior setter and libero, Annie Constantino, will also be key, as will senior defensive specialist Myra Munoz and sophomore Makayla Warth.

Don’t be surprised if POLA, already with a key nonleague win at Banning of Wilmington this season, makes another run at glory… and ultimately seizes it.

“I think we have a good chance of being in the finals again, but a key factor will be if we can work as a team for the whole season,” says Bayer. “There is a huge amount of new players this year, and it is key for us to trust and work as one in order to succeed.”

Over at San Pedro, head coach Kyle Ross enters his fourth season at the helm as he will try to guide the Pirates into battle in the killer Marine League that features both Narbonne of Harbor City, last year’s CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I runner-up, and Carson, a D-I semifinalist. Senior middle blocker Mila Maricic is the unquestioned leader, as she is a returning All-Marine League first team pick.

San Pedro, who went 9-7 overall last season, may be able to surprise their league foes considering they add many new faces from the junior varsity team to the mix. Last year’s JV team went 10-2 in the Marine League. Junior outside hitters Paige Peterson, Julia Sampson and Brittany Foster, along with senior setter Vanessa Ruiz, are the only other returning varsity players from a year ago.

Key newcomers to watch out for include senior Michelle Costanza and juniors Kirsten Bauman and Jazmin Tela.

“I have a good feeling about our team this year with all the talent we have,” says Peterson, who led San Pedro in service aces and was second in kills last season behind Maricic. “We are all athletic and have the potential to get that Marine League title. We also get along very well, which always helps practices go a lot more smoother and games a lot more exciting.”

The biggest new additions to the Pirates just may be senior outside hitter Katie Sullivan, who transferred from Mary Star, and Miranda Mueller, a transfer from Carson. Sullivan was an All-Camino Real League selection for Mary Star a season ago.

And speaking of the Stars, One of Mary Star’s all-time greats, Sarah Gascon, is in her second season as head coach. Despite the defection of Sullivan, the Stars, who were 5-8 last season, will still try to be competitive in the Camino Real League.

Senior opposite hitter Brina Garcia, senior outside hitter Sarah Pearson and junior defensive specialist Hope Marinkovich are the top returning players, but playing volleyball for the first time is junior Lexie Geich, who along with seniors libero Victoria Vitalich and opposite hitter Christina Padilla, helped Mary Star’s softball team reach the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship game in June.

“I think we will be competitive,” says Gascon. “Our biggest challenge will be consistency. With our team it takes everyone to win. I love my team and staff and I’m honored to have an opportunity to share my volleyball knowledge with them.”

The Stars, who started off the season already claiming the Chino Tournament, have four freshmen on the team that are all looking to make an instant impact in outside hitter Lexi Andrie, S/OH Kaitlyn Martinez, outside hitter Ally Spillane and S/OH Angela Pisano.

“My freshman are great!” says Gascon. “They have a great competitive spirit, they’re coachable, and they have a winning attitude.”

Seems like the Pirates, Polar Bears and Stars all possess a winning attitude, and that’s what should make for three successful seasons. spt

Field Generals Spark 2013 Prep Football Season

Mary Star's Tyler Sestich and San Pedro's Jacob Miller. (photos by Joshua Stecker)

The 2012 season brought upon new phases for both San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High School football.

In the prior year, San Pedro rolled to a perfect 10-0 regular season with a Marine League championship to boot (12-1 overall), while the Stars went completely the other way around with a disastrous 0-10 campaign.

Once the 2012 season ended, it saw the Pirates go 8-4, and the Stars made a miraculous return to the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs by closing out the year winning four out of their last six games.

All of that sets up a promising 2013 campaign for both schools and the two who are looking to guide their teams to greatness are two young and promising quarterbacks who both came from Holy Trinity.

San Pedro sophomore Jacob Miller and Mary Star senior Tyler Sestich are two of the latest quarterback sensations to come out of Holy Trinity, following in the footsteps of former San Pedro High quarterback greats such as Jonathan Marselis from the 1997 CIF-Los Angeles City Section championship team, Gustavo Navarro from the 1998 and 1999 Pirate teams, and of course, the 2011 CIF-Los Angeles City Section Co-Offensive Player Of The Year, Kenny Potter.

Both quarterbacks will be working behind experienced offensive lines and playing in front of two passionate and well-supporting fan bases at two of the best and historic atmospheres in the South Bay and Harbor Areas, the Pirate Stadium (San Pedro) and Daniels Field (Mary Star).

Believe it or not, Miller and Sestich’s paths didn’t cross together at Holy Trinity. “(Sestich) was two grades older than me,” Miller said.

Sestich added, “When I was on the 7th and 8th grade team, Jacob was only a 5th or 6th grader but we did play together on an All-Star team at Peck Park.”

Miller and Sestich both had an interesting 2012 season, to say the least.

Mary Star started off the year 0-3, with the third loss being a heartbreaking 21-15 loss to St. Anthony of Long Beach, which ended up being the last of what was a 15-game losing streak. In that game, Sestich threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Alves on a fourth-and-long play with 48 seconds left that allowed the Stars to pull within one, and then a gutsy and successful two-point conversion run from Sestich’s fellow quarterback mate Jeremy Atencio put the Stars up, 15-14. Unfortunately, the hard-fought win was taken away when the Saints threw a 47-yard TD pass 30 seconds later.

The streak finally ended a week later when the Stars rallied to topple Verbum Dei of Los Angeles, 20-19.

“In 2011, we all worked really hard as a team and the scores didn’t reflect the effort we gave all year,” Sestich said. “But in 2012, we worked equally as hard and it felt great to see our hard work and effort translated on the scoreboard. And it wasn’t due to any one guy, it was our whole team working hard.”

Sestich, who split time as the starter with Atencio last season on matchup purposes, was the top passer on Mary Star who ran the spread offense that mainly favored the running game. He completed 38-of-75 passes for 437 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, the Stars are looking to go more pro-style with their offense where the quarterback is lined up more than five yards behind the center in a shotgun style attack, which the spread normally is like.

What will also help Sestich tremendously is the fact that every single offensive line starter for the Stars are seniors. “The pro-style offense fits my style better,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miller didn’t find instant success right away at San Pedro, but he would soon make history by becoming the first freshman quarterback to ever take a snap in a varsity game. Miller was the starter on the junior varsity team for the first eight games, but was bumped up to varsity shortly after.

With San Pedro leading Harbor Area neighbor Banning of Wilmington by a sizable margin on October 26, 2012, head coach Mike Walsh substituted Miller into the fray, and history was made.

“It was a really good feeling, and a big accomplishment to be the first freshman to do that,” said Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the Pirates’ 48-6 victory over Banning. Miller threw for five touchdowns on the JV level, with his favorite play coming against Gardena in a Marine League opener where he scrambled to his right and threw a gorgeous pass on the run to Anton Srsen for a 22-yard touchdown.

Miller, who started playing flag football at age nine and played Pop Warner football for Palos Verdes starting at the peewee level, also comes from a great family. His father Leonard is now in his second year as the San Pedro Pirate Booster Club president, while his sister Macy, also entering her sophomore year, was the junior varsity girls soccer most valuable player in 2013.

San Pedro will once again look to challenge the likes of two-time defending CIF-Los Angeles City Section champion Narbonne of Harbor City and perennial powers Carson and Banning for another Marine League title in 2013. Walsh is excited about the defense and Miller’s raw but very amazing potential.

When asked who he thought was San Pedro’s biggest rival, Miller was pretty clear on his answer.

“Since they’re the defending champs, I would say Narbonne,” Miller said. “But Carson will give us a good game as well.”

Miller and the Pirates actually start off Marine League play on October 11 at Carson, and then they host Narbonne the very next week, so there’s a strong chance the Pirates can win the league again if they can win both of those games, and still have an outstanding run in league competition simply by winning at least one of those showdowns.

Sestich thinks Mary Star should do well enough to challenge La Salle of Pasadena for the Camino Real League championship this season and was pretty definitive on who he believes is the Stars’ biggest adversary in league play.

“Bishop Montgomery,” said Sestich. “We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been at Mary Star and they’re our rivals. I think we have a great shot at beating them this year.”

Mary Star will travel to face the Knights on September 27.

Other than the offensive lines that will seek to protect them, there’s one thing that will also carry Miller and Sestich throughout their respective 2013 seasons, and that’s an overwhelmingly support system and fan base at their schools. The experience at San Pedro is unlike any other, especially when the Pirates march onto the field through the fabled Victory Arch, a long treasured staple at school for 76 years.

“The Pedro fans are great and you really feel the energy behind you at the home games,” Miller says of the Pirate football followers. “And I know many of them will be there to support us at the away games.”

Speaking of which, the Pirates have six away games in 2013, with the first one being the second-longest road trip in school history when they travel to Morro Bay for their season opener on August 30. Morro Bay is a five-hour, 220-mile trip. This game came about after Centennial of Compton, the Pirates’ original opponent for Week 3, backed out, and no one else but Morro Bay had an opening in their schedule.

“It will be a good test to see how our team performs,” Miller says of the Morro Bay opener.

As far as the Mary Star football experience at their home facility Daniels Field goes?

“My dad (John) played for Pedro there and my mom cheered for Mary Star and our traditional walk down the alley is great,” said Sestich, who’s sister Meagan is a 2009 San Pedro High grad who once pitched for the JV softball team. “Our fans are great because they’re so loud and supportive. It’s just an overall awesome atmosphere, and to top it off we walk back down the alley (to Mary Star Elementary School) with our fans to say a decade of the Rosary at the Grotto.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Grotto, this tradition got started in the 1960s when the football team would go to Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and sing the alma mater to the nuns who taught them. In the 1970s, former Mary Star coach Joe Radisich began the tradition of walking down the alley to and from the old high school at the church.

Mary Star opens their season on September 6 with a long road trip of their own to Aquinas of San Bernardino.

Should the 2013 seasons be as fruitful for the San Pedro football teams, expect Miller and Sestich to play big time roles in the successes of both the Pirates and the Stars. It will definitely be a promising journey for both. spt

Birth Of SPHS Girls Soccer

As the 2013 high school soccer season kicks off it brings back memories of my days playing for the San Pedro High School varsity soccer team, especially now as I watch my son Antonio play for the JV team.

Back in the early 80s there was only varsity soccer, which made tryouts highly competitive. Many hoping to make the team did not and as a sophomore, I was one of them. I had only played soccer for three years and knew to make the team the next season I would have to train even harder in the off season. I joined the Pirate track team to increase my speed, ran hurdles to improve my reaction time and agility, and spent countless hours improving ball placement and left foot kicking skills. The next season I made the varsity team and in 1983, my senior year, I became the teams co-captain. That year we finished first in the Marine League but it wasn’t the first place finish that I reflect on, but rather being on the team that had two girls on the roster for the first time in SPHS history: Weslie Williamson and Lisa Kamppila. It was also the year that Weslie scored the first goal by a girl Pirate against Locke High School at Daniels Field.

My coach was Anthony Scirocco for both seasons that I played for the Pirates. He was great to play for because he had passion and tried different approaches and drills to help us improve our game and listened and learned from his players, as well. One thing I appreciated about coach was his candor. For example, looking back at my junior yearbook he signed it saying, “If you could be as hard working in the classroom as you are on the field, now that would be something. Go and get ’em.” That was coach. But with all of the pressure that comes with high school coaching, Scirocco was great at encouraging and motivating us to be our best. He also had vision.

During my senior year, I was the teacher’s assistant during his second period class. Once his students began their individual assignments, we would discuss the upcoming season, players, drills, basically everything soccer. One day, Scirocco leaned over to me and asked, “What would you think if we had a couple of girls on our soccer team?” At the time I wasn’t aware that two girls had tried out, the thought of having them play on a team with twenty boys was bold. Together we discussed the pros and cons and in the end agreed that having them on the team would have a positive impact, not only on our team, but on the future of girl’s soccer at SPHS.

Weslie played soccer for six years and Lisa five prior to coming to SPHS. It was their love for the game that gave them the drive to tryout for the boy’s team. Once they joined the squad the team accepted them without any concerns. They practiced just as hard (if not harder) than any of the boys and were great teammates. That season was Locke’s first year in the Marine League. When Weslie and Lisa entered that game, Locke was already having a difficult time containing our offense and trouble penetrating our defense. Weslie joined the forward line and after a barrage of shots on the Locke goalie one of them came loose from his hands right to Weslie and she put the ball in the back of the net. We would go on to win the game 11-1. That goal paved the way for others such as Noelle Jensen and Lisa Tregarthen to play on the boy’s soccer team until the first girl’s soccer team was established in 1988.

Weslie and Lisa’s decision to tryout for the boy’s soccer team back in 1983, and the decision by Coach Scirocco to put them on the roster, blazed the trail for all the girls who play Pirate soccer today. It was bold and it was time. I was glad to have been a part of it. Go Pirates. spt

San Pedro Nursing Professor Leaves Her Mark on India

Vivian Churness’s love affair with India began more than a half-century ago. A young nurse recently graduated from Hope College in Michigan, she went to India in 1960 and served the next four years as a missionary nurse-tutor at the famous Scudder Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Ranipet.

She returned to the States, where she earned her master’s in psychology from Notre Dame, Ph.D. in nursing from Indiana University and a Family Nurse Practitioner certificate from USC, where she was a faculty member until retiring.

There is nothing “retiring” about Churness, however. She plays numerous instruments and still teaches music. Over the years, the longtime San Pedro resident has continued visiting India as a consultant in nursing education, and she has just overseen the publication of a nursing textbook that she co-authored with Leah Macaden, a native of India who also is a nursing professor.

“Another textbook doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, but it is to them,” Churness says of Indian nursing students. “There simply are no textbooks in India at a level of English that is easy to read and understand.”

Nursing Management Concepts and Skills (Including Ward Management) is in English for very good reasons. “To be registered as a professional nurse (R.N.),” Churness says, “they must know how to read and speak English. Doctors’ orders are written in English. All of their lectures are in English, as is their licensure exam. English is a second language for them. When they start the nursing program at age 17 or 18, the only English some of them know is what they learned in English classes in school. They can read it but have difficulty speaking, understanding and writing English.”

In a nation of rampant poverty, Churness also notes the book sells for only $6. “This was released as a national nurses convention in Delhi at the centenary celebration of the Christian Medical Association of India,” she says. “They were overjoyed to have the book. It was well received and will be used by Christians in mission hospitals and by non-Christians in private and government hospitals.”

According to Churness, the content is prescribed by the Indian Nursing Council in the syllabus for registered nurse education, and, “We were careful to cover all of the prescribed content so it can be used in any nursing program.”

In fact, orders for the book already have been received from three other countries, including the United States.

Churness announced the book’s publication at Trinity Lutheran Church of San Pedro, where she and her husband, David, are longtime members. She wanted to publicly thank the many church friends who had assisted her on the book over the previous 18 months. So it comes as no surprise to those who know Churness that the dedication page reads, “To God Alone Be the Glory.”

On the Gridiron

The high school football season is nearly over, but it’s not too late to remember Gene Vollnogle, the legendary coach who died at age 81 on the same day as San Pedro’s own famed sportsman, Van Barbieri.

Vollnogle was a familiar, dare I say “hated,” figure to several generations of San Pedro High coaches, athletes and fans. As first co-head coach at rival Banning (1957-62 with Paul Huebner) and then head coach at Carson (1963-90), Vollnogle compiled a 22-3-1 record against the Pirates. (He was “only” 4-2 against San Pedro while at Banning, and it was those two victorious Pirate teams, from 1961 and 1962, that were honored this year.)

When Vollnogle moved to the newly opened Carson campus in 1963, however, he began a domination of City football unequaled by anyone save his own former player, Chris Ferragamo of Banning.

Vollnogle in particular embarrassed San Pedro High year in and year out. It wasn’t just the 18-1-1 record he compiled against the Bucs, it was the way it was done: the average score was 39-7. In 15 of those 20 games, San Pedro scored one touchdown or less (seven shutouts). The competition became so lopsided, the outmanned Pirates dropped down a division in 1980, and the two teams didn’t meet for eight years. When play resumed in 1988, Carson continued to dominate. It took current coach Mike Walsh to restore order to the rivalry, but he started the year after Vollnogle retired. Walsh and Vollnogle did compete against each other once, however; the Colts defeated the Pirates, 47-0, in 1971, when Walsh was team co-captain.

The highlights for San Pedro against Carson were the one win, the famous Danny Bondon last-minute catch in my senior year (1968), and Mickey Teora’s 1973 team managing a 6-6 tie against the defending City champs.

Vollnogle was a true genius, and even though his teams left their cleat marks all over the Pirates, the San Pedro Sportswalk still saw fit to honor him with a plaque in 2012. spt