Championships aplenty for La Cañada in 2011

1 Flintridge Sacred Heart soccer wins CIF Southern Section Division I crown: Big things were expected from the Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team as it came into the 2010-11 season with a roster boasting a group of experienced juniors and senior leadership in captains Alyssa Conti and Natalie Zeenni.

Expectations were exceeded, though, as Sacred Heart put up its greatest season ever with a 23-2-1 record that captured Mission League, CIF Southern Section Division I titles and a runner-up finish in the CIF Southern California Division III Regional championships.

“To go in and beat the teams we beat, mostly on their field, really is an amazing accomplishment,” Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace said. “There's nothing subjective about what we did. …You just look at the scoreboard and see the scores. Nothing was given to us. Everything that we accomplished we earned this season.”

The Tologs did what no other team in the area or San Gabriel Valley has been able to when they won the Division I crown with a 1-0 win over San Clemente on March 4.

There were plenty of other dramatic moments throughout the year for the Tologs. First was their 0-0 (4-3) win over Aliso Niguel in the second round of the Division I tournament thanks to Sacred Heart goalie Lindsay Espe stopping three penalty kicks.

Zeenni shined bright in the semifinal and championship games. She stopped a potential own goal with a clutch sliding stop to propel Sacred Heart to a 1-0 win over Esperanza in the semis after Conti’s sudden-death overtime goal. Zeenni stopped two more shots near the goal line against San Clemente in the championship before her teammate Krista Meaglia scored the only goal of the game in the 69th minute.

Sacred Heart’s season came to halt with a 3-1 loss to Oaks Christian in the championship game of the CIF Southern California Division III Regional Championships tournament. The Tologs defeated Horizon Christian Academy (6-1) and St. Margaret’s (3-0) in the first two rounds.

“For a small school from the Valley, not from Orange County, it's definitely not expected,” co-Coach Kathy Desmond said of the team’s 2011 run. “Everybody had the same goal in mind — Mission League, CIF, state. We got two out of three.”

2 La Cañada High boys’ basketball matches best run under Hofman: It would have been impossible to predict at the beginning of the year that the Spartans would win their first CIF Southern Section Divisional championship in 19 years in 2011. They did more than just that.

La Cañada pulled off several dramatic upsets in the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA and CIF Southern Section State Division III tournaments this past year to match the finest run under 26-year Coach Tom Hofman.

First was a double-overtime victory in the Division III-AA quarterfinals over Bishop Montgomery (72-68), a last-second overtime win over Palm Springs (61-60) in the semifinals followed and a 50-47 win over heavily favored Price in the Division III-AA championship concluded the title run.

“They seem to have a will to win in that last minute and a half,” Hofman said of his team after the win against Price.

La Cañada kept the run going in the state tournament with wins over Crespi (43-42) and Inglewood (60-50) before its season finally came to a halt against La Verne Lutheran (57-47) in the CIF State Division III Southern California regional finals.

“We brought a whole town to their feet,” Hofman said after the La Verne Lutheran game. “For the past two weeks, all they’ve been talking about is La Cañada High basketball.”

There always seemed to be a different hero for La Cañada (30-4, 10-0 in Rio Hondo League), from Mike McGlashan’s ability to seemingly get to the rim at will, Matt Faber’s rebounding and shooting prowess, Dario CiVon’s touch from behind the arc, Sean Mintie and Mason Holle’s ability to shut down their opponents defensively and Riley Moore’s spark off the bench.

“No doubt this is one of, if not the best team, in the school’s history,” Hofman said at the end of the run.

3 Spartans win first softball championship since 1995: Unlike the team above, it was hard to imagine the La Cañada High softball team not winning a CIF Southern Section Division V championship this year with all its talent.

“I felt that we had a very solid club with so much experience,” said La Cañada Coach KC Mathews after his team won the Division V title with a 1-0 win over Beaumont. “I liked my chances.”

The entire season was epitomized by the final game for the No. 1-seeded Spartans, as the squad’s two stars, Lauren O' Leary and Anna Edwards, lifted their team to a championship.

Seniors O’Leary, a pitcher, and Edwards, a shortstop, earned All-CIF Southern Section Division V Player of the Year and first-team honors, respectively, after propelling their team to the 1-0 win over Beaumont. O’Leary pitched a three-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and Edwards accounted for the run with a solo home run in the third inning.

“We definitely knew that we had a shot this year,” La Cañada junior catcher Catherine Horner said. “We were so close last year and we knew this was the year to do it.”

O’Leary finished the season with a 0.39 earned-run average, 25-2 record with 23 complete games and 16 shutouts, 237 strikeouts and just 27 walks for the Spartans (26-3, 12-0 in Rio Hondo League).

Edwards posted team-highs in batting average (.471), on-base percentage (.569), slugging percentage (1.011), home runs (12), runs batted in (31) and stolen bases (10).

4 Kenyatta Smith lifts Flintridge Prep boys’ basketball to first title: Kenyatta Smith put the Flintridge Prep boys’ basketball team on his back in 2011 and led the Rebels to their first CIF Southern Section championship in program history with a 47-44 win over Muir in the Division V-AA championship game.

“We just made history,” Smith said after the win. “I still can’t believe it, but I’m so happy right now, I’m so proud of every one of those guys.

“We worked so hard to be here and we finally made it. This is it.”

The Rebels (24-7) cruised through most of the season until they ran into the Mustangs, thanks to Smith. He averaged 22.6 points and 16 rebounds per game in the Division V-AA playoffs. He had 15 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks against Muir and was named the Division V-AA Player of the Year.

“With the success the team's had, and Kenyatta's obviously a huge part of that, I think it's only fitting,” said Prep Coach Garrett Ohara, who earned the division’s coach of the year award. “He's pretty clearly the best player in the division.”

Smith also earned the Prep League co-MVP, John R. Wooden High School Player of the Year Award for Division V and the All-Area Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year honor. Kory Hamane and Jared Norsworthy also earned first-team Division V-AA honors for Prep.

5 Gregg Zaun retires after 16 seasons: The 1989 St. Francis graduate hung up his cleats for good after 16 seasons with nine different Major League Baseball teams. Things looked bleak for Zaun when he underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in April 2010 at 39.

“I'm not in a situation anymore where I need to play. I don't need to play. I don't need to play Major League Baseball to validate myself as a person,” Zaun told the Associated Press after deciding on the surgery. “Do I want to play? That's a different story. It's too uncertain to tell. I'm really upset about having surgery and my season being over.”

And in March of 2011, after some time in the preseason with the San Diego Padres organization, the former Golden Knight decided to call it a career.

In his career, Zaun hit .252 with 88 homers, 437 runs scored, 446 driven in and a .987 fielding percentage through 1,232 games.

6 Katy Campbell dominates postseason: There were a lot of unknowns after La Cañada High swimming made the jump from CIF Southern Section Division II to Division I. The Spartans were likely to dominate Rio Hondo League competition as usual, but no one quite knew what to expect in the Division I meet.

“Division I is definitely going to be challenge. I do have some confidence [after today], but I am going in a little uneasy,” Campbell said at league finals, where she set three new league records in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 50.99 seconds), 500 freestyle (4:53.10) and in the 200-freestyle relay with Mackenzie Heaton, Sarah Olson and her sister Samantha Campbell (1:42.50).

Katy Campbell went on to take the Division I 500-freestyle title in a time of 4:43.04 and third in the 200 freestyle (1:49.07) at Belmont Plaza Pool in Long Beach.

“I honestly think that was the best race she's had all year,” first-year La Cañada girls’ swimming Coach Tiffany Quash said of Campbell’s effort in the 500.

It was the only division title the Spartans, both boys and girls, captured in 2011 and was more than two seconds faster than the second-place finisher. A few days later at the CIF Masters Meet, Campbell took the 200- (1:48.66) and 500-freestyle titles (4:46.05).

7 Flintridge Prep football falls on hard times: The 2011 season was filled with challenges and tough decisions for the Rebels. Flintridge Prep Coach Antonio Harrison was forced to forfeit two games this season after a 19-man roster coming into the year was decimated by injuries.

The Rebels canceled their nonleague game against Campbell Hall after only 13 players, including a kicker, would be able to suit up.

“It was incredibly hard, slash, incredibly easy,” said Harrison of the decision. “I know if I asked those 12 or 13 kids to go out and play on Saturday, they'd go and give me everything they've got. … When it boils down to putting them on the field with a team that has more than 30 kids, I'm not gonna put them in danger's way. It's like feeding them to the wolves.”

It was a tougher, but necessary decision when the Rebels forfeited the team’s Prep League opener against Webb.

“We simply don't have enough once again to field a team,” said Harrison, whose team finished the season with an 1-8.

8 Flintridge Prep girls’ soccer captures first-ever league title: For the first time ever, the Rebels captured an outright Prep League title in 2011 after sharing it the year before.

Prep finished 2011 with a 17-4-3 overall record, 7-1-1 in league, and captured the league title with a 1-0 win over Chadwick on Feb. 8, thanks to a goal from Kaelin King.

“The girls accomplished something big, I think,” said Rebels Coach Esteban Chavez after the win.

The Rebels kept rolling in the CIF Southern Section Division III playoffs with a 3-1 win over Diamond Bar in the first round. The run ended with a 3-1 loss to No. 1 seeded Ayala in the quarterfinals after Prep’s star forward Brooke Elby was injured late in the first half after scoring her team’s only goal of the game.

“It was the best team I've played with in all my four years,” Prep’s Alina Okamoto said after the loss. “It's difficult, but we've accomplished so much.”

9 La Cañada High wrestling flourishes: The 2010-11 season will go down as one of the best in the history of the La Cañada High wrestling program. The Spartans took the Rio Hondo League championship, advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI tournament, sent a league-high 10 wrestlers to CIF Individuals and two — Chris Bache and Luke Sanborn — to the CIF Masters Meet.

“It's usually just one [La Cañada wrestler], or none, that gets to Masters,” Sanborn said about the accomplishment.

10 La Cañada High boys’ water polo reaches semis for first time in five years: Under the direction of first-year coach Steve Neville, the La Cañada High boys’ water polo squad pooled together all its talent to reach the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals.

It didn’t end the way the Spartans (22-7, 8-0 in league) wanted with a 14-5 loss to Laguna Beach in the semis, but it was still an incredible run, as it marked the first time La Cañada made the semis in five years with wins over Santa Monica (12-7) and Aliso Niguel (9-7) in the playoffs.

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