The Top 10 Stories of 2012 as chosen by the La Canada Valley Sun

It was a year of repeat success, disappointing endings and surprising postseason performances for a number of La Canada Flintridge teams in 2012.

Several squads managed to add to the impressive resumes they carried into the year, while others came painfully close to adding to their legacies or experienced dramatic turnarounds or setbacks in 2012.

Here are the La Cañada Valley Sun’s top 10 stories of 2012.

1.) La Cañada High softball repeats as CIF Southern Section Division V champion.

All eyes were on the La Cañada High softball team coming into 2012 after its previous campaign ended with a championship.

Despite losing two key pieces after capturing their first crown since 1995, it seemed the Spartans had a good shot at repeating in Division V. When all was said and done, it came back down to La Cañada and Beaumont — the same team the Spartans knocked off for the title, 1-0, in 2011.

Hopes were the Spartans' returning senior leaders — pitcher Lauren Cox and catcher Catherine Horner — would lead them to a second-straight championship. While they did exactly that, La Cañada's entire lineup came through in the clutch for a 7-3 win over Beaumont in the championship bout on June 2.

Cox struck out 10 in notching a complete-game win and Horner scored three times and set the table for the offense with a two-for-three day at the plate. But the seniors received plenty of support from a lineup that racked up 11 hits with six players producing a base hit and four logging multi-hit games.

La Cañada’s Kelsey Drange continued her hot postseason at the dish, as she went three for four and drove in three runs in the Spartans’ win over the Cougars after she drove in the only run in their, 1-0, semifinal victory over Nipomo. Jessica Ogden (two for three, two runs batted in) and Annie Monroe (two for four, RBI) also came through in the clutch for La Cañada, which won its fourth straight Rio Hondo League title and went 26-4-1, 10-1-1 in league.

Prospects for 2013 remain bright for a team that returns a potent lineup which includes Drange, Ogden, Monroe, Selina Mohr, Aubri Thompson and Katy Lee.

2.) La Cañada High boys’ water polo reaches Division III title match after multiple coaching changes.

The Spartans players were not shy about what was important for the 2012 season — a championship or bust.

While La Cañada advanced deep into the postseason for the third year in a row, it ultimately had its title hopes dashed in a 14-9 loss to Martin Luther King in the CIF Southern Section Division III championship on Nov. 17.

The Spartans put together the championship run after going through three coaches in a matter of months. Steve Neville, who coached the team in 2011, resigned in late May and his replacement, Todd Sprague, stepped down in September before Devon Borisoff took over at the helm.

Despite all the changes, the Spartans sat atop the Division III rankings most of the season, controlled the No. 1 seed and walked away with the Rio Hondo League title with a regular-season record of 18-8 (8-0 in league). They steam rolled their way into the title match with wins over San Juan Hills (17-7), Corona Santiago (19-7) and Palos Verdes (11-8) before finishing the year at 23-9 overall.

It appears the 2013 season could be a rebuilding year for the Spartans, who lost some key All-CIF players that included Chase Borisoff, Symeon Stefan, Bryce Hopkins, Alden Geller and Johnny Louk. But there's no doubt La Cañada will look to quickly be in contention for its first CIF title since 2007.

3.) Katy Campbell adds her fourth CIF Southern Section title in 500-yard freestyle.

Ever since her freshman year, Campbell had been at the top of her class in the pool.

La Cañada High's standout swimmer continued her CIF Southern Section dominance in the 500-yard freestyle when she won her fourth crown in the event at the Division I Swimming and Diving championships on May 12. She became only the fifth swimmer in Southern Section history to win four titles in an event, with her first two coming in Division II.

Unlike her Division I debut in 2011, it took a dramatic comeback for Campbell to win her signature event this year in 4 minutes 42.83 seconds — the fourth-fastest mark in the nation to that point in 2012.

Campbell, who now attends UCLA, also left her mark on the Rio Hondo League in her high school finale, taking home three titles from the league championship meet.

Campbell didn't spend much time with the Spartans in 2012, as a large part of the season she devoted to training for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, but that didn't stop her from earning the All-Area Girls' Swimmer of the Year honor for the second year in a row.

4.) Renaissance Academy basketball team wins first CIF title and falls just short of state championship.

From the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, the Renaissance Academy boys’ basketball team was the overwhelming favorite to take home the CIF Southern Section Division VI title.

The Wildcats followed up on those expectations in impressive fashion, defeating their opponents by an average of 47.8 points in the Southern Section playoffs, including a dominating 67-45 win over Cal Lutheran in the championship game March 3 to deliver long-time Coach Sid Cooke’s first CIF title.

With an eye on a CIF State Boys' Division V Championship, Renaissance continued to steamroll teams by double-digit margins in the state tournament before meeting its match in the Division V Southern California Regional Final on March 17.

The Wildcats season came to an end when they fell to Village Christian, 58-57, on March 17 after a buzzer-beating three-point attempt from Renaissance Academy’s Vince De Guzman was off the mark.

Currently ranked No. 8 in Division IV-A, Renaissance Academy is looking for more postseason success in 2013 after the moving to Altadena.

5.) Flintridge Prep football wins playoff game to highlight a turnaround season.

One year made a great deal of difference for the Flintridge Prep football team. The Rebels found themselves celebrating after a CIF Southern Section Northeast Division playoff game just a season removed from a disastrous 1-9 campaign in 2011, which was marred by two forfeits.

It seemed Prep was being haunted by the same lack of depth that plagued it the year before. The Rebels went 2-3 in nonleague action but stayed competitive with their three losses came by a total of 11 points.

Flintridge Prep’s 23-man roster made it difficult to close out games until everything clicked when Prep League kicked off. The Rebels shrugged off the bad memories of 2011 by going 3-1 in league to lock up second place and a postseason spot.

Prep continued to impress early in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs when it knocked off Ribet Academy, 34-28, in overtime in the first round on Nov. 9 before falling to Mission Prep, 49-14, a week later to finish 6-5.

6.) Flintridge Prep boys’ cross-country squad adds to its legacy.

Most programs would love to boast the type of season the Rebels put together in 2012, but the year ended in heartbreaking fashion for a Prep team that finished a point behind CIF State Division V champion St. Joseph Notre Dame, 86-87, on Nov. 24.

It was Flintridge Prep’s first runner-up finish at State since 2005, with its last championship coming in 2004.

Despite the disappointment, the Rebels loaded up on accolades this past season. They took second in CIF Southern Section Division V and won their 21st Prep League title in 22 years, with Aaron Sugimoto claiming the individual crown.

7.) Unranked La Cañada High girls’ volleyball team reaches CIF Southern Section Division II-AA semifinals in an injury-plagued season.

A senior-led Spartans squad was hobbled for most of 2012 with injuries to offensive standouts Micaela Anderson, Katie Pierce and Kendall Walbrecht.

Despite often being short-handed, La Cañada finished the regular season with a 16-11 record (10-0 in the Rio Hondo League) to win another league crown and fell out of the Division II-AA top-10 rankings by the time the postseason began.

The Spartans began to hit their stride after a few matches. With all their top hitters in place, they upset fourth-seeded Oaks Christian, 21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 28-26, on Nov. 10 to advance to the semifinals. La Cañada’s surprise run ended Nov. 17 when it was knocked off by eventual champion Martin Luther King, 19-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-17.

8.) La Cañada High girls’ soccer advances to CIF Southern Section Division VI quarterfinals without coach.

A young team playing without its head coach in the playoffs would seem a recipe for disaster. The Spartans, however, found a way to put together an impressive run in the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs without Coach Louie Bilowitz on the sideline.

La Cañada advanced to the quarterfinals when freshman Natalie Ragusa scored in the 55th minute of its 1-0 win over Ocean View in a second-round match on Feb. 22, while Bilowitz was out with flu-like symptoms.

The Spartans couldn’t add to the magic, as they fell on the road to top-seeded Hemet, 4-0, in the quarters with Bilowitz unable to make the trip. La Cañada finished the season with a share of second place in the Rio Hondo League with a 13-3-4 (5-1-4 in league) record.

9.) Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy soccer team perseveres through trying season.

The dominance the Tologs displayed in their dual-championship — CIF Southern Section Division I and Mission League — in the 2011 season fell by the wayside after a slew of injuries in 2012.

The Tologs pushed through the setbacks to take second in the ultra-competitive Mission League before finishing the year with a 13-5-3 (6-2-2 in league) record. Sacred Heart was unable to build much chemistry with its lineup constantly changing after injuries to key players, including Katie Johnson, Tera Trujillio and Krista Meaglia.

Sacred Heart’s 2012 season and bid at a repeat came to a disappointing end in the first round of the playoffs when it fell to Capistrano Valley, 3-2, in overtime on Feb. 17. The year also ended with long-time Tologs co-Coach Frank Pace handing over the coaching reins to assistant Cesar Hidalgo.

10.) La Cañada High football welcomes, struggles with new coach.

It seemed there was reason for the Spartans to set their expectations high this past season. It was their first season under Coach James Sims, who took over March 27 for Dan Yoder, who led the program for three years.

The Spartans delivered on those hopes when they knocked off Alhambra, 17-7, in their debut game of the season under Sims. There wasn’t much else for La Cañada to cheer about until their season finale when they knocked off Blair, 42-0.

It was a rough season for La Cañada, as it finished the season 2-8 (1-4 in the Rio Hondo League) and gave up nearly twice as many points (313) than it scored (151) on the year.

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