Dolphins hit the pitch, pool and hardwood
By Steve Breazeale and Adam Herzog
There’s been a lot of movement before the start to the Dana Hills winter sports season, with new coaches and league alignment shifts dotting the offseason. Girls soccer enters the tough South Coast League while a senior-heavy wrestling squad looks to have a big year.
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Dolphins head coach Rob Cullinan likes to mix things up on the basketball court.
After guiding the Dolphins girls basketball team to a 10-17 overall record last season in his first year as head coach, Cullinan has been working and tinkering with the team’s game plan, looking for ways to improve a team that did not win a single South Coast League game in 2011. Cullinan saw steady improvement in the team over the course of last season and believes this team is ready to get even better.
The Dolphins are moving to the Sea View League and Cullinan will bring his multiple-look game plan, along with three senior returning starters, to the table.
In any given game, the Dolphins can throw multiple looks at a team with a style that is built around misdirection and post-play.
On offense Cullinan said the squad will run specific set plays for certain players, and then switch gears to their read-and-react Princeton Offense system on the next possession, if the situation calls for it.
On defense, the Dolphins employ even more looks, running man-to-man coverage and 1-2-2 and 1-3-1 zones. Cullinan says the Dolphins defense is what generates their offense and he makes sure all nine players on his roster learn every set.
“The players have to be pretty smart to play within our system and I’m very fortunate that I have very smart girls who are very coachable,” Cullinan said.
The Dolphins will be led by their three senior captains, each one offering a different style of play and leadership for the young Dana Hills roster to emulate.
Cullinan pegged senior captain and forward Katie Underwood as the team’s best all-around player, who is just as good on defense as she is on offense.
Senior Patricia Flynn is another captain who plays at the guard position and acts as the team enforcer. Cullinan says Flynn is the type of leader who speaks out vocally to keep the team in check.
Senior captain and forward Emily Jaimerena will be one of the Dolphins primary low-post players and at 5-feet-10 inches tall, the tallest player on the court for the relatively undersized Dana Hills roster. —Steve Breazeale
The Dana Hills basketball squad might be starting fresh in a new league this season but they are returning some familiar faces, as they attempt to take charge of the competitive Sea View League.
After finishing with an overall record of 12-15 (1-7 league) last season, the Dolphins will look to improve in 2012, especially now that they are in a league that doesn’t include historical powerhouses Mission Viejo and Capistrano Valley.
According to head coach Tom Desiano, the biggest strength in this year’s team is its ability to adapt.
“This year, we have a lot of versatile players, guys who can play different positions and excel in a lot of facets of the game,” Desiano said. “We did really well in summer league, won a majority of our games, and that is going to help with our confidence.”
In their new league, the Dolphins biggest competition will most likely be Trabuco Hills. The Mustangs made a CIF-SS appearance last year, and are also returning some of their key players.
Dana Hills is also returning some of last year’s starters, and Coach Desiano is quick to note the impact that makes on his squad.
“Several kids are returning that played some varsity minutes last year, and that has (the team) playing with more confidence this year,” Desiano said.
Senior wingman Corey Blau and point guard Hayden Fredrick are returning players, and are both primed to have big seasons manning the Dolphin backcourt. As of November 19, Fredrick was nursing an injury, but Desiano said it is not considered serious. Fredrick should be making his return after the first week of the season. —Adam Herzog
The expectations surrounding the Dana Hills boys soccer team are extremely high and the idea of finishing atop the Sea View League is on the minds of the entire roster and coaching staff.
Thirteen-year veteran head coach Leo Compean said that this is the team he and his staff have been “waiting for.”
Senior captain and center midfielder Mason Palmer is taking it one step beyond his coach and thinks that the Dolphins will have a shot at winning the CIF title.
The reason for so much optimism in the Dolphin camp is the fact that they are returning 10 seniors, at least nine of which are slated to be in the starting 11. Most of the players on the team this year were a part of the Dolphins squad that finished second in league and lost in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs last season.
“(Expectations) are very high. In a perfect world and the way that me and my assistants see it, we are taking first (in league),” Compean said. “Anything less than that is unacceptable right now.”
What Compean is most excited about is the play between his midfield and forwards, who have a mix of experienced and young players at all positions.
Palmer will be the one controlling the ball at midfield and Compean describes him as a “wizard” while out on the pitch. The senior is also the team’s resident corner kick taker.
Compean believes that Palmer will help facilitate a high powered offense that is mixed with seniors, sophomores and juniors.
“From the midfield and up, our forwards will be our strength,” Compean said. “They’re fast, smart and strong. They are what we want them to be. We’ve been waiting for this season.”
While the offense might grab some of the headlines the Dolphins have an experienced keeper in senior Rony Alay, who Compean says is like a “wall” while in the net. At practice Alay makes difficult acrobatic saves look routine and is very vocal when play comes into the box.
In order to prepare his team, Compean has set up a rigorous preseason schedule that includes the likes of Tesoro, San Clemente and Edison, successful clubs out of the South Coast and Sunset leagues.
“(The schedule) is kind of a crap shoot. It can demoralize us or it can make us stronger,” Compean said. “I’m looking at the latter. I’m hoping the level of competition will challenge us and will speed us up a bit and make us stronger in the end.” —SB
With 11 seniors on this year’s wrestling team, Dana Hills is looking to make a serious run in South Coast League competition, as well as qualifying individuals for CIF and the state tournaments.
Head coach Reza Abedi is excited about this season, and expressed that the experience and senior leadership this team has is going to be critical.
“I have not had this many seniors in a long time. The experience and maturity we have is going to be a huge factor, and it is definitely the strength of our team,” Abedi said.
That maturity and experience has paid off in the offseason, according to Abedi.
“We have done a good job in the offseason. All the guys competed in summer league and have been working hard to stay in shape, and we are ready for the season to get under way,” Abedi said.
Individually, Coach Abedi hopes to qualify as many as possible for CIF, and also believes some of his guys can make it to the state tournament. Seniors Arryan Kianipey, Dalton Du’Casse and Austin Grimsley are a few of the team leaders that are primed for big seasons.
The Dolphins’ toughest test will be league opponent Laguna Hills who, according to Coach Abedi, has dominated the South Coast League in recent years. However, Abedi thinks the boys have been putting in the necessary work in the offseason to get in shape, and their experience is ready to pay off. The Dolphins season will get underway at the Cossarek Classic, which will take place at Westminster High School on November 30 and runs to December 1. —AH
Last season was among the more successful runs the Dana Hills girls soccer team has had in recent years. The Dolphins won the Sea View League title and made it all the way to the semi-finals of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs.
With all of the success the team had in 2011, they have now been moved up to the brutal South Coast League, which features reigning CIF-SS finalist San Clemente and Division 1 champion Aliso Niguel.
Luckily for head coach Sheena Jarvis, 11 returning players will be back for the Dolphins as they prepare for the challenges sure to face them in the new league. There will also be three high-profile transfers contributing to the Dolphins new season.
Seniors Sydnie Zuccolotto, Ashlynn Harryman and Tiana Salazar are all recent transplants from JSerra that Jarvis is expecting to make an impact. Zuccolotto and Harryman are currently injured but Jarvis pegs them to return sometime within the next two weeks.
Controlling the midfield for the Dolphins will be senior Kelly Fitzgerald, a Stanford commit. Jarvis says Fitzgerald is the “cement” type of player who is solid and holds the team together with her leadership and playmaking ability.
Mixing it up with Fitzgerald on offense will be junior forward Brittany Mueller and junior Megan Matchett. Mueller was among the Dolphins top goal scorers from last season and Jarvis likes Matchett’s versatile ability to play both sides of the ball.
The Dolphins’ recipe for success in the Sea View League last season was to dominate the time of possession in every game. That requires a team with patience and skill, which Jarvis believes her experienced team has plenty of.
“For us, we like to play with the ball. Other schools are very direct and don’t take the time to play with a finesse style,” Jarvis said. “Having a player like (Fitzgerald) and our other players helps us keep control offensively…Just like any sport it helps create opportunities to score.” —SB
Girls Water Polo
The Dolphins girls water polo team had a successful run last season, going undefeated in the Sea View League and advancing all the way to the CIF-SS Division 4 quarterfinals.
But 2012 will be a season of changes for the Dolphins as they jump up to Division 2 competition and welcome new head coach Chad Beeler into the mix.
Beeler comes from Laguna Beach, where he was the head coach from 2007 to 2009 before landing the job at Dana Hills. He’s had part of the summer and several weeks of practice time with the team and has spent the time getting to know what kind of players he has and how his system will work with the given roster.
Five seniors return to a team that is made up of seven juniors and a handful of underclassmen.
One player who has impressed Beeler is junior two-meter player Juliana Burke. Beeler identified Burke as one of the team’s hardest workers and he expects a big season out of the junior returning player.
Other players to watch will be freshman whole set Maia Borisoff and junior attacker/utility player Molly Wilbur.
Beeler expects the team to be ready for competition when they start their season on November 28 against his old team, Laguna Beach.
“I’ve seen a lot of good things with this team…I think we can do something really good this year,” Beeler said. “But it’s tough to tell because of the jump to Division 2. We have a lot of different teams to go up against.” —SB