Coach of the Year: First-ever championship for Glendale High boys' water polo merits Holbrook top billing

The top five high school coaches from the 2013-14 season were voted on by the Glendale News-Press sports department.

1. Forest Holbrook, Glendale High aquatics: High school championships within the Glendale city limits are a rarity. That was at least until this past season when the Glendale High boys' water polo team, under the leadership of Forest Holbrook, delivered the Jewel City a crown.

Top-ranked Glendale defeated Los Altos, 13-11, in the finals of the CIF Southern Section Division V championship at the William Woollett Aquatic Jr. Center in Irvine on Nov. 23.

The title was the first ever for the Nitros program and first for any Glendale High sports team since 1989.

The championship win also helped erase a tough 12-10 defeat to Pasadena Poly in the 2012 title game.

"Before the season began, I wasn't sure if we could put it all together," Holbrook said after the victory. "We lost some key players to graduation and you hear that if Arman [Momdzhyan] and Manuk [Piloyan] could be stopped then the team could be stopped. This is just an awesome experience and moment we can all share together."

En route to the title, Glendale defeated three postseason foes by a combined score of 55-32 and finished with a 22-6 record, which included a third straight Pacific League crown and a 24-game league winning streak.

As for the girls' team, Holbrook molded Glendale into a league contender as the Nitros finished runner-up in the Pacific League to perennial power Crescenta Valley, posted a 15-8 record and advanced to the postseason.

In swimming, both the boys' and girls' teams were competitive within the Pacific League, while the boys' team had a representative in Trenton Julian at the CIF Southern Section Division II Finals at Riverside Community College.

Holbrook, a history teacher at Glendale, stepped down as coach of all four sports in May to become an assistant principal at Crescenta Valley.

2. Ingrid Herskind, Flintridge Prep boys' cross-country/boys' and girls' swimming: The veteran enjoyed an all-around solid year with perhaps her boys' cross-country squad performing best.

The Rebels finished fourth at the CIF State Division V championships, while individual runner-up Alan Yoho became his school's first-ever state titlist.

A week earlier, the CIF-Southern Section Division V top-ranked Rebels defeated third-ranked Thacher, 56-79, at Mt. SAC to claim the program's fifth divisional crown and first since 2004.

"We had a lot of things happen today that perhaps we weren't quite ready for and to still win is amazing," Herskind said after her squad won the title. "I mean this is great because we got these mistakes out of the way and now we'll be ready for next week."

At the Southern Section finals, Yoho also became the Rebels' inaugural sectional champion.

As for the Prep League finals, Flintridge Prep captured its 21st league title in 22 years by lambasting runner-up Chadwick, 20-61, at the finals on Nov. 2.

On the swimming side, the Rebel boys also enjoyed a banner year as the program captured a Prep League championship and then shined at the Division III Finals at Riverside Community College on May 15.

In 2013, the Rebels finished seventh in the division. Fast forward one year and Flintridge Prep took third with 207 points, trailing only JW North (271) and Laguna Beach (255.5).

At the divisional finals, Flintridge Prep's Marco Flores won the 100-yard butterfly title, marking his school's first individual crown since 1983. At that meet, the Rebels' 200 freestyle relay squad also captured a first-ever program relay title.

The girls' team also produced some standouts, such as divisional runner-up diver Madi Witt and divisional fourth-place 200-yard freestyler Jennifer Langen, both of them Prep League champions.

3. Ray O'Brien/Jeff Stephens, St. Francis basketball: A fifth-place tie within the hyper-competitive Mission League may not necessarily seem like an accomplishment, but the Golden Knights weathered the storm within one of Southern California's toughest leagues.

St. Francis' standing was rewarded with a postseason at-large berth and a No. 2 seeding within Division III-A.

The Golden Knights parlayed their selection into a first-ever title game visit after the squad rallied to defeat crosstown rival La Cañada, 56-53, in the semifinals in front of a crowd of more than 1,500 at Maranatha High on Feb. 28.

"It's huge for this program to get to a championship," said O'Brien after the victory over La Cañada. "We had never even been to the semifinals before, so this is special."

Visions of a first-ever crown fell agonizingly short for the Golden Knights, who were defeated, 60-53, by Oak Park in the divisional title game at Azusa Pacific on March 7.

Despite the defeat, the Golden Knights bounced back and defeated host Kearny, 67-62, in the first round of the state Division III playoffs before succumbing to Santa Margarita, 74-66.

St. Francis finished with an overall record of 20-13.

4. Jim Bonds, St. Francis football: Coming off perhaps the most disappointing season in the coach's 14-year tenure, St. Francis followed a tough 2012 campaign with a wonderful bounce-back effort in 2013.

Bonds' squad rebounded from a 4-7 season and first-round exit in 2012 with a stellar 10-3 record in 2013 and advancement to the semifinals for the first time since 2005.

St. Francis only took five weeks in surpassing the previous season's win total as the squad eventually jumped out to an 8-0 mark, which included a pair of special victories.

St. Francis humbled Monrovia, 48-14, on Oct. 4 in a rematch of a Wildcats' 17-13 victory at Friedman Field in 2012.

The following week, the Golden Knights opened Mission League play with a bang, defeating host St. Paul, 63-18, on Oct. 11 for what was then Bonds' 100th-career victory.

"It's neat to win 100, but it's more about these kids and this coaching staff," said Bonds after the St. Paul victory. "This is about the players who have come out of this program over the last 14 years. This is about a great coaching staff, guys like Joe Monarrez and Mark Gibbons, who have been there with me. I have to thank those guys and others who helped me along the way."

St. Francis concluded the regular season with back-to-back road defeats against CIF and state powers Gardena Serra and Chaminade by scores of 35-21 and 56-35, respectively.

The losses placed the Golden Knights third within the Mission League, but that did not stop the team.

St. Francis notched playoff victories over Culver City (45-28) and Camarillo (42-21) before succumbing to rival Serra again in the semifinals, 22-14.

5. Ernest Banaag, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy volleyball: It had been awhile since the Tologs sat atop the Mission League standings or had defeated archrival Harvard-Westlake.

That all changed in 2013, as Banaag's team snapped a seven-year drought and 15-match losing streak versus the Wolverines with a 25-23, 25-27, 25-21, 25-19 home victory on Oct. 24.

The victory, the first for Flintridge Sacred Heart over Harvard-Westlake since Oct. 10, 2006, split the season series between the teams and helped the Tologs to a share of their first league crown since 2005.

In the postseason, the Tologs also made their best surge since 2007 in picking up three wins through the Division I-A playoffs, including bumping off the previous season's runner-up, El Dorado, in five games in the divisional quarterfinals on Nov. 16.

A wonderful season ended the following Monday against the division's best team, La Salle, which eliminated Flintridge Sacred Heart, 15-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-15, in the semifinals.

Flintridge Sacred Heart was the lone team to win a set versus La Salle in the Division I-A playoffs.

"I came here to put Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy on the map and I think we've done that," Banaag said after the La Salle defeat. "I think we just had an amazing season and we got so much accomplished.

"We are a better team now then we were when we started the season. It only bodes well for the program moving forward."

Honorable Mention: Mike Roffina and Jill Riehl, Flintridge Prep girls' cross-country; Dave Beard, Hoover wrestling; Phil Torres, Crescenta Valley baseball.


Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.

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