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Local athletes level up with college commitments

Water polo player Lauren Schneider, a USC commit, stands up to thank her parents during a national signing day ceremony.
Water polo player Lauren Schneider, a USC commit, stands up to thank her parents during a national signing day ceremony at Laguna Beach High on Nov. 9.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The fall signing period saw dozens of local high school seniors make declarations about their college plans, all involving a future in athletics.

Schools recognized their athletes whose achievements will elevate them to the next level in their sport.

Laguna Beach High, which held an on-campus ceremony, celebrated college scholarships at Division I or Division II programs for 11 athletes.

Baseball players Griffin Naess (Cal Poly) and Colin Kidd (New Jersey Institute of Technology) on fall signing day.
Baseball players Griffin Naess, a Cal Poly commit, and Colin Kidd, a New Jersey Institute of Technology commit, pose with their baseball coach during a national signing day ceremony at Laguna Beach High on Nov. 9.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The strength of the Laguna Beach girls’ water polo program, which was a finalist in the CIF Southern Section Open Division and CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs last season, was reflected in its four signees at the Nov. 9 presentation — Jordan Schneider (Michigan), Lauren Schneider (USC), Lauren Short (Villanova) and Cleo Washer (Brown).

Eva Travis, an outside hitter for the Breakers, signed with the UC Santa Barbara women’s volleyball program. She had transferred in from Aliso Niguel, where she won the CIF Division 2 title with the Wolverines as a junior.

Newport Harbor has asserted its dominance in the pool, winning the most recent section titles in the top division for both boys’ and girls’ water polo. The Sailors edged out JSerra 10-9 for the Open Division title on the boys’ side on Nov. 12, just three days after Finn Genc (UC Santa Barbara) and Ben Liechty (UCLA) signed their National Letter of Intent.

Newport Harbor High athletes partake in a signing day ceremony on Nov. 9.
Newport Harbor High athletes partake in a signing day ceremony on Nov. 9. From left, front row: Principal Sean Boulton, Vivi Spitz, Sarah Porter; back row: Malia Thorne, Laine Briggs, Jake Read, Luca Curci, Anna Reed, Avery Montiel, Finn Genc, Ben Liechty, Quinn Perry, Michela Banta.
(Courtesy of Jerry Murray)

The Sailors’ list of committed athletes sported additional CIF champions, including goalkeeper Anna Reed (USC) and attacker Avery Montiel (Stanford) for girls’ water polo, as well as outside hitters Jake Read (Loyola Chicago) and Luca Curci (UCLA) for boys’ volleyball.

“It’s just a testament to these individuals,” Ross Sinclair, who coaches the boys’ and girls’ water polo teams at Newport Harbor, said of his players who signed. “They’ve put in a lot of work, not just the four years that they’ve been here, but before that, in age-group [play], and not only taking care of their abilities in the pool and as athletes, but also being great students on campus.

“I’m really happy for them. It’s a lot of hard work that they’ve put in, their parents have put in, the program’s put in, so it’s a really neat honor for them. It should be really exciting and also just the beginning for them. I think all four are going to have great, great college careers beyond this.”

Corona del Mar had 14 seniors commit to play their sport in college, including midfielders Gavin Gossen (Stevenson University) and Scott Westrick (Providence) and defender Colin Hebble (Delaware) of the Sea Kings’ boys’ lacrosse program. The Sea Kings defeated Foothill for the Division 1 title last year.

Two Daily Pilot Softball Dream Team selections in Fountain Valley corner infielder Makenzie Butt and Huntington Beach center fielder Sophia Knight signed with Boise State.

Volleyball player Brooklyn Yelland, a Boston College commit, introduces herself at a signing day ceremony in Laguna Beach.
Volleyball player Brooklyn Yelland, a Boston College commit, introduces herself during a signing day ceremony at Laguna Beach High on Nov. 9.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Fountain Valley’s TJ McDonnell, who won a CIF Masters title and placed third in the state at 182 pounds, signed with the Oregon State wrestling program. Marina’s Mika Ikemori, a five-star tennis recruit who reached the final of the CIF Individuals tournament as a junior, has committed to UC Davis.

“It’s such a weight lifted off my back,” McDonnell said of making his college decision. “I’m definitely most excited to compete now without the stress of wondering what’s going to happen and where I’m going to go. Now, I can go out there and have fun and let it fly. That’s definitely the most exciting part.”

Below is a list of the local athletes who have signed or committed as of the fall signing period:

CORONA DEL MAR

Aubrie Anderson, Brown University women’s water polo

Milan Bever, University of San Diego women’s swimming

Chloe Bohuslavizki, University of Nevada, Las Vegas women’s diving

George Bruening, UC Santa Barbara men’s volleyball

Emily Cloherty, UC San Diego women’s water polo

Sarah Decker, Brown University women’s water polo

Francesca Garcia, San Diego State women’s lacrosse

Gavin Gossen, Stevenson University men’s lacrosse

Colin Hebble, University of Delaware men’s lacrosse

Makena Macedo, San Diego State women’s water polo

Maggie Schalow, University of Virginia women’s swimming

Jillian Schlom, Michigan women’s water polo

Jordyn Warner, Texas Christian University women’s diving

Scott Westrick, Providence College men’s lacrosse

EDISON

Brandon Winokur, UCLA baseball

FOUNTAIN VALLEY

Makenzie Butt, Boise State softball

Tim Grack, University of San Diego baseball

JJ Gray, Oberlin College men’s basketball

TJ McDonnell, Oregon State wrestling

Alan Ton, West Point men’s tennis

Jonathon Yu, Cal Poly boys’ track and field

HUNTINGTON BEACH

Zach Bettino, USC men’s water polo

Grace Brehm, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee women’s swimming

Dean Carpentier, USC baseball

Chloe Griffith, Tennessee Tech women’s golf

Aidan Espinoza, UCLA baseball

Emma Francisco, Cal Poly Humboldt softball

Sophia Knight, Boise State softball

Carson Lane, University of Nevada, Las Vegas baseball

Madeleine Scarth, Michigan women’s water polo

Wyatt Thomas, Biola baseball

Colby Turner, San Diego State baseball

Ralph Velazquez, Arizona State baseball

LAGUNA BEACH

Jana Jocic, UC San Diego women’s swimming

Colin Kidd, New Jersey Institute of Technology baseball

Griffin Naess, Cal Poly baseball

Cadence Peery, Cal Poly Humboldt women’s track and field

Jordan Schneider, Michigan women’s water polo

Lauren Schneider, USC women’s water polo

Lauren Short, Villanova women’s water polo

Katelyn Smith, UC Davis women’s tennis

Eva Travis, UC Santa Barbara women’s volleyball

Cleo Washer, Brown University women’s water polo

Brooklyn Yelland, Boston College women’s volleyball

MARINA

Emmi Burdine, Sweet Briar College field hockey

Samantha Esparza, Idaho State women’s soccer

Mika Ikemori, UC Davis women’s tennis

Makayla Mathis, Eastern Kentucky University softball

NEWPORT HARBOR

Michela Banta, USC crew

Laine Briggs, Pepperdine women’s volleyball

Luca Curci, UCLA men’s volleyball

Finn Genc, UC Santa Barbara men’s water polo

Ben Liechty, UCLA men’s water polo

Avery Montiel, Stanford women’s water polo

Quinn Perry, Cal Poly women’s beach volleyball

Sarah Porter, Fordham crew

Jake Read, Loyola Chicago men’s volleyball

Anna Reed, USC women’s water polo

Vivi Spitz, Cal crew

Malia Thorne, Cal State Monterey Bay women’s volleyball

Kenny Wanlass, Johns Hopkins men’s cross-country and track and field

OCEAN VIEW

Evyn Lewis, Lewis and Clark College baseball

Landon Runyon, UC San Diego baseball

PACIFICA CHRISTIAN

Nat Ferdi, LeTourneau women’s soccer

Parker Strauss, Northwestern men’s basketball

Charles Thurston, Menlo College men’s golf

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