Dolphins start new season with eyes on the winning circle

The Dana Hills boys cross country team is looking to make a run at the CIF-SS and CIF State Championship titles. Photo by Steve Breazeale
The Dana Hills boys cross country team is looking to make a run at the CIF-SS and CIF State Championship titles. Photo by Steve Breazeale

By Steve Breazeale

Pack Mentality Key to Dolphins State Title Hopes

The Koa tree is synonymous with Hawaii. It’s a large tree that can reach heights upwards of 70 feet and it’s twisting, turning form can be found growing on the islands of O’ahu, Maui and the Big Island. From the outside, it looks uniform in color. But it is the intricate, ever changing pattern of the Koa wood found on the inside that makes it so appealing to designers across the world.

The members of the Dana Hills boys cross country team, fresh off a trip to Hawaii, can tell you all about Koa wood, especially the unique clocks made of the special material they were given by Joel Truesdell of Kamehameha Schools, their host on the trip.

“It was about how different one piece of koa is. It doesn’t have a pattern to it … It symbolizes our DNA and how different we all are and yet, it came from the same tree. That’s where the unity comes in,” head coach Tim Butler said. “This is the way we have to think. This is the way we have to run. This is the way we have to perform. It’s just another one of those symbols that we have.”

Unity and togetherness are the buzz words around the Dolphins practices these days. They know that if they stay together and establish the same pack running mentality that served them well in 2012, it could pay off when they head to CIF and the State meets in 2013.

The Dolphins head into the new cross country season as the reigning South Coast League and Orange County champions, but are looking to improve on seventh and eighth place finishes at the CIF-SS and State meets, respectively.

The Dolphins return five of their top eight runners this season and have several other players that could break into the top group as the season progresses.

Leading the way will be sophomore Jake Ogden, who had a breakout freshman cross country season. Ogden sets the pace for the rest of the Dana Hills runners, like seniors Gavin Diem and Nick Serrao and Wyler Svoboda. At last year’s State meet Ogden posted the team’s fastest time at 15:38 and their seventh runner came in at 16:46, which was a tight gap. This season, the Dolphins think they can narrow that margin even further.

“We have Jake and he’s the tank of the team. Our goal is to close the gap as much as we can on Jake. We feel like the gaps will be closer,” Svoboda, a team captain, said. “Right now we think we can get four or five people under 15 (minutes) which can get us a really good score.”

At the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Invitational the separation between the Dolphins first and sixth runners was 40 seconds, which Butler believes is a good start. He expects that number to shrink down as the weather cools off and the difficulty of the courses lessens.

Senior captain Timmy Wilson has been a member of the Dana Hills cross country team for four years and says the unity of this Dolphins team is unlike anything he has seen since arriving on campus.

“We are hoping for a State title. Last year wasn’t really what we wanted but this team, this year, I’d say is a lot stronger,” Wilson said. “In some of our workouts … some of us will actually cry, just trying to go through the pain. Everyone’s face is grinning and you can just tell they’re working for the team.”

Dolphins Girls Cross Country Relying on Returning Core of Runners

The Dana Hills girls cross country team took a hit to graduation, as they lost their No. 1 and No. 3 runners over the summer. Head coach Rex Hall and his team have now put their focus on condensing time gaps to make sure the Dolphins finish in tight bunches.

They might be without their top runners but the Dolphins still return a strong group of seniors, led by Emma Kao, Lindsay Cullens and Lauren Morabito. Rising junior Emily Harper is also in the Dolphins top-7 unit.

The Dolphins finished second in the South Coast League last year, which is arguably one of the toughest leagues in the state. The Dolphins missed out on winning league by one point and finished eighth at the CIF-SS meet.

Hall also pointed to a group of sophomore runners to help with the Dolphins depth as the season progresses. Sophomores Sienna Serrao, Danielle Soto and Noelle O’Brien are still inexperienced in terms of varsity race experience but could eventually make an impact, according to Hall.

The Dolphins recently returned from a trip to Hawaii, where they claimed the Kamehameha Schools Invitational meet varsity and junior varsity titles. They will look ahead to racing in the Fastback Shootout at Mt. SAC this weekend.

Youth, Experience Create Talented Mix for Dolphins Girls Golf

Golf is a game that can be decided by the slimmest of margins. A putt that hangs on the lip of the cup or a ball that gets the friendliest of bounces and rolls an extra five feet towards the hole can sometimes be the difference between a loss and a win.

Junior Tori Hummel of Dana  Hills warms up before a match at El Niguel Country Club. Photo by Steve Breazeale
Junior Tori Hummel of Dana Hills warms up before a match at El Niguel Country Club. Photo by Steve Breazeale

The Dana Hills girls golf team knows this all too well. Last season they were neck and neck with South Coast League rival Tesoro all season, but the Titans were able to get the better of the Dolphins, even if it was by a slim margin. In their two matches played against one another in 2012, Tesoro won both by a combined total of two shots.

Despite losing the South Coast League title Dana Hills advanced to the CIF Southern Section Team Regionals for the second year in a row, which marked the end to a successful season.

The sights of the Dolphins this year will be set on Tesoro and league play.

“When we get to play against them we are definitely going to try and have our comeback and hopefully steal the title from them,” senior Elizabeth Soewondo said.

The Dolphins will be without three-time South Coast League individual champion Avery French, who is playing collegiate golf at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. French was the backbone of the 2012 team and now, that role has fallen to Soewondo, the team’s new No. 1 player.

Soewondo will be joined by returning juniors Tori Hummel (42.8) and Sophia Nichols (46.5) at the top of the rotation. But the most surprising player that has broken into the Dolphins top-5 is Soewondo’s younger sister, Joan.

Joan Soewondo, a freshman, is off to a hot start in the early season and is averaging 40.4 strokes per nine holes, just behind her big sister.

Head coach Phil Wilburton has been liking the mix of returning players and young upstarts that have the Dolphins standing at 3-1 overall in the early 2013 season.

“One through four we are pretty strong … I’ve been very impressed,” Wilburton said. “My expectations are to obviously make the playoffs. I would like to avenge our losses to Tesoro but it’s early in the season.”

Depth Not an Issue for Dana Hills Girls Tennis

After the final point of the California high school girls tennis season was recorded, it was Dana Hills who were hoisting the inaugural CIF USTA Southern California Regional Championship trophy. The Dolphins, who were bounced out of contention in the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships weeks earlier, had rallied back and rode the stellar play of their seniors and role players to the highest honor in their sport.

Junior Gressa Folley will be among the Dolphins top singles tennis players in 2013. Photo by Steve Breazeale
Junior Gressa Folley will be among the Dolphins top singles tennis players in 2013. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Dana Hills head coach Justin Green thinks that this version of the Dolphin team can get back to the same lofty heights, even without standout player Alyssa Smith.

Smith won the CIF-SS Individual title and graduated, which has left the Dolphins No. 1 singles spot up for grabs. It will likely fall to seniors Margo Pletcher and A.J. Gomer. Green has also pegged rising junior Gressa Folley as a possible top singles player.

“This year we have a really deep team … No matter what nine (players) we put in there, they’re all really solid tennis players,” Green said. “It’s a bit of a different look for us … Last year we had Alyssa who could carry us to the top … but we still have a very good team. We’re hopeful to get back to the same spot we were at last year.”

The Dolphins are the reigning South Coast League champions and swept through the competition in 2012. They will face the same opponents this time around and as usual, Dana Hills will be playing some of the top teams in the county in their preseason schedule. On September 18 they will host Peninsula in a rematch of the 2012 SoCal Regional finals.

Dolphin Water Polo Using Last Year’s Playoff Run as Motivation

After reaching the quarterfinals of last year’s CIF-SS Division 1 Championships, the veteran-heavy group of returning boys water polo players at Dana Hills is looking to make a statement and go where no Dolphins team has gone since 1991—the CIF-SS semifinals.

After coming so close last season the Dolphins will have their shot in 2013, as they return five starters and several bench players who saw considerable time during last year’s run.

The Dolphins returners also play at several crucial spots. They return their goalie, senior Brody Zachary, their center defender, senior Grady Williams, and two talented attackers in senior Spencer Likins and junior Marko Asic.

“It’s not often that you have a player to fill every position so it’s nice to know at any time there are five other players in the pool who can make and receive a pass or a shot,” Williams said.

Senior attacks Hugh Fitzmaurice and Eric Thorpe both started last year and help round out the veteran group.

The Dolphins have been honing a quick, up tempo style of play in the offseason. They train in a slightly smaller pool on campus, something that restricts their ability to spread things out, but play a majority of their home games elsewhere, like at San Juan Hills or JSerra. Those campuses have larger pool decks with more space in the water, which allows the Dolphins to get into more open space and push their offense.

“We have a lot of team speed and balance. I really think our balance is a strength. We have a lot of different guys who can score,” Rosa said.

Dana Hills Girls Volleyball

Last season Redondo Union girls volleyball head coach Tommy Chaffins approached Dana Hills head coach Bryce Baum after their two teams battled in the CIF-SS Division 1AA quarterfinals. Chaffins’ team had just claimed a narrow victory, ending the Dolphins season.

But after witnessing a Dolphins comeback against his team, forcing a five set finale, Chaffins told Baum that he had dubbed Dana Hills the “Cardiac Kids”, because they can give opposing coaches fits of stress and can never be counted out. It was the second game in the playoffs that the Dolphins erased early 2-0 set disadvantages.

The ability to battle back out of deficits was the trademark of last year’s Dana Hills squad and a large portion of the team’s nucleus returns for 2013.

The Dolphins are the reigning South Coast League champions and boast several players with multiple years of varsity experience.

Senior outside hitters Nikki Matheis and Tia Scambray have been on varsity for four years and help make up a tall Dolphins front line. Senior Natalie Hurlock and sophomore Ayla Fresenius will play at the opposite position. All four players are listed standing above 6-feet tall and have impressed Baum in the early going.

“You look at our front row and everybody is 6-foot plus, it’s very intimidating if you’re going to have to go up and take swings against it,” Baum said.

The Dolphins also had to overcome several key injuries last season and so far the injury bug has made its way back onto their depth charts in 2013. Seniors Kelly Shute (middle blocker) and Hailey Zimmermann (opposite) are both nursing injuries but Baum expects them to be back soon. Hurlock will play time at the middle blocker position in their absence.

Matheis isn’t worried by the early injuries. As a member of last year’s team, she already knows that’s just a minor speed bump the Dolphins have proven they can clear.

“We’re a group of really hard working individuals that believe anything is possible. We believe in the impossible,” Matheis said. “This year we have some of those same injuries but we’re going to overcome them and do well.”

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