Senior Kayl Cota and the Dana Hills baseball team are ready to make a run through the South Coast League. Photo: KDahlgren Photography
Senior Kayl Cota and the Dana Hills baseball team are ready to make a run through the South Coast League. Photo: KDahlgren Photography

By Steve Breazeale, Evan Da Silva and Michael Matossian

The 2016 prep sports spring season is on the horizon. In our annual season preview, we get you caught up on all the Dana Hills High School spring sports programs as they head into the new year.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @SouthOCsports for in-game updates, scores, news and more for all of the Dolphin teams all season long.

Baseball

Last Season: 24-8 overall (6-6 league); advanced to the first round of the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships.

Players to Watch: Hans Crouse, David Clawson and Shawn Kany.

Circle ’em: Aliso Niguel (3/24) and Capistrano Valley (4/5)

Outlook: Despite losing a group of impact seniors to graduation this offseason, the Dana Hills baseball team returns plenty of firepower in 2016.

The Dolphins pitching rotation will be led by junior standout Hans Crouse. Crouse broke out as a sophomore, tossing 50 2/3 innings in 13 appearances. Crouse went 6-1 in seven starts, compiling a 1.80 ERA and consistently flashed the ability to make opposing bats miss. In 50 2/3 innings, Crouse racked up 54 strikeouts.

Crouse’s main battery mate this season will be David Clawson, a senior catcher who is committed to BYU.

Senior Kayl Cota figures to be the Dolphins No. 2 starter, but head coach Tom Faris said he has plenty of pitching depth, particularly left-handed arms, available.

Because the team was senior heavy last season, many of the current Dolphins players spent time playing at both the junior varsity and varsity levels in 2015. The tactic allowed players to consistently get at-bats at both levels. Jordan Matthews, Chad Morgan and Joe DeBaca are newcomers brought up from junior varsity that will make up the Dolphin outfield.

“I feel like they’re really excited to play,” Faris said. “Maybe because there’s not a lot of varsity experience and they’re excited to see how they’re going to do. Those things accumulate to some positive ends.”—Steve Breazeale

The Dana Hills boys golf team returns five of its top-7 players from last year’s CIF South Coast Divisional Championship team. Photo: Steve Breazeale
The Dana Hills boys golf team returns five of its top-7 players from last year’s CIF South Coast Divisional Championship team. Photo: Steve Breazeale

Boys Golf

Last Season: The Dolphins won the South Coast League and the South Coast Divisional CIF Golf Championship.

Players to Watch: Clay Feagler and Tanner Podres.

Circle ’em: Tesoro (3/22) and Champions Invitational (4/1-2)

Outlook: It will be hard to top the success of last year’s Dana Hills boys golf team, but head coach Glenn Forster believes the 2016 version of his team might be able to reach new heights.

The Dolphins return five of their top-7 golfers from last season, including senior Clay Feagler, the reigning CIF-SS Individual Champion. Senior Tanner Podres, who advanced to the sectional qualifying stage of the 2015 U.S. Open, and Cal State San Marcos commit Matt Fry, return.

It’s a loaded group that is not running from high expectations.

“This year I think we’re going to progressively improve,” Forster said. “Their goal is to make it to the CIF state meet. That’s a lofty goal, but I think if they play well this team can definitely do that.

The Dolphins depth got a boost from Blake Brothers, a transfer from Texas, who is already posting scoring averages that have him inside the Dolphins’ top-3.

Dana Hills will play a tough nonleague schedule, with an appearance in the high-profile Champions Invitational at The Golf Club at Terra Lago in Indio scheduled for April 1. –SB

Branson Salhus, a transfer from Seattle, will help make up a versatile and talented midfield for the Dana Hills boys lacrosse team in 2016. Photo: Steve Breazeale
Branson Salhus, a transfer from Seattle, will help make up a versatile and talented midfield for the Dana Hills boys lacrosse team in 2016. Photo: Steve Breazeale

Boys Lacrosse

Last Season: 9-9 overall

Players to Watch: Colton Brown, Jake Shiflett and Max Ramenofski.

Circle ’em: Skyline (3/4) and El Toro (4/12)

Outlook: The Dana Hills boys lacrosse team knows first-hand how close the margin of error is in high school lacrosse. In the final game of the 2015 regular season, the Dolphins saw a late lead they held over El Toro slip out of their hands in the second half, costing them a trip to the playoffs.

Dana Hills returns plenty of those same players who felt the sting of last season and enter the new year with a veteran-heavy roster.

The Dolphins will feature a versatile midfield and attacking unit, anchored by Colton Brown, the team’s second-leading scorer last year. Surrounding Brown will be midfielders Brandon Rogers and Branson Salhus, a transfer from Seattle. All three players will be able to shift in and out from midfield roles to attacking roles in the Dolphins game plan, according to head coach Chris Iltis.

The Dolphins also have versatile attacks that can drop back into the midfield if necessary, like returning senior Max Ramenofski.

Junior goalie Jake Shiflett will anchor the Dolphins on defense.

“We have a lot of experienced guys. They know they want to take care of business this year and we’re definitely trying to go for a run this season,” Iltis said.—SB

Girls Lacrosse

Last Season: 5-12 (2-8 league)

Players to Watch: Sam Warday, Tracy Mann, Gabby Ahad and Sydney Deindoerfer.

Circle ’em: San Clemente (3/10) and Laguna Hills (3/22)

Outlook: The Dana Hills girls lacrosse team will enter the new season under the guidance of first-year head coach Linda Kim. Kim, a Dana Hills alum, served as a junior varsity assistant and head coach of the junior varsity program in years past.

Kim has inherited a veteran Dolphins group and called up several of her former junior varsity players.

Senior defender Sam Warday is among the more experienced Dolphins players and will be joined on the field by newcomers Gaby Ahad and Sydney Deindoerfer. Kim said that Tracy Mann has the ability to play multiple positions on the field and will do so in 2016.

Kim will get a first look at her team in competition when the Dolphins open their season on the road against Santa Margarita on March 8.—SB

L to R: Frankie Tago, Hailey Hoklotubbe and Samantha Williams return to lead the Dana Hills softball team in 2016. Photo: Evan Da Silva
L to R: Frankie Tago, Hailey Hoklotubbe and Samantha Williams return to lead the Dana Hills softball team in 2016. Photo: Evan Da Silva

Softball

Last Season: 13-12 (2-6 league)

Players to Watch: Samantha Williams, Frankie Tago, Hailey Hoklotubbe and Serafine Parrish.

Circle ’em: Mater Dei (3/23) and Mission Viejo (4/12)

Outlook: After a disappointing 2015 campaign, the Dana Hills softball team is looking to have a bounce-back year. Using the experience of seasons past coupled with a stronger veteran presence in the lineup, head coach Brandon Cosenza is confident his players are ready for the tough schedule awaiting them.

“I think we have a strong possibility of finishing top-two in league,” Consenza said. “We have great leadership top to bottom, and our pitching staff has a lot of experience under their belts.”

Cosenza believes junior pitcher Serafine Parrish has the ability to anchor the Dolphins rotation and is poised for a breakout season after having a full year of varsity pitching experience.

On offense, the Dolphins are led by their big three: Samantha Williams, Frankie Tago and Hailey Hoklotubbe. The trio is a powerful core of seniors all headed to Division I colleges in the fall. Last year, Williams batted .487, compiled an on-base percentage of .530 and slugged .750. Hoklotubbe posted a .446/.474/.532 line.

“Our number one strength is offense,” Cosenza said. “We’re going to hit the ball really well. We have a lot of team speed and we play solid defense … we are returning virtually our entire starting infield from last season.” –Evan Da Silva

Boys Swimming and Diving

Last Season: The Dolphins won the South Coast League and placed second at the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships.

Swimmers to Watch: Shane Forker, Owen Kao and Trent Pellini.

Circle ’em: Capo Relays (3/10-12) and Capistrano Valley (4/12)

Outlook: Following another successful campaign last season, the boys swim team is looking to once again capture the South Coast League title and make a push into the CIF-SS Championships. With a talented roster led by distance swimmers Shane Forker and Owen Kao, who are both training for Olympic trial bids, head coach Matt Rosa is confident in the skill-set and depth his team will be riding throughout the season.

“We have one of the top teams in the county,” Rosa said. “It’s a really nice chemistry and group we’ve got here, pretty versatile too.”

For years the boys team has found great success in long-distance freestyle events, and this season will be no different. Rosa expects the 500- and 200-yard freestyle events to be the team’s strongest, with breaststroke and sprints also playing in their favor. –EDS

The Dana Hills girls swimming team’s motto this season is “team spirit”. Photo: Evan Da Silva
The Dana Hills girls swimming team’s motto this season is “team spirit”. Photo: Evan Da Silva

Girls Swimming and Diving

Last Season: N/A

Players to Watch: Courtney Prefontaine and Devin Forker.

Circle ’em: Capo Relays (3/10-12) and Capistrano Valley (4/12)

Outlook: A young, talented roster and a group of swimmers that have already begun to gel before the start of the season has Dana Hills head coach Cynthia Carlson excited about what this year holds for the girls swim team.

“This group of girls is already working as a unit. Our theme this year is ‘team spirit,’ and each year I try to work on our unity. We’re all trying to rally around one common cause: swimming,” Carlson said.

The freestyle events, specifically the 200-yard freestyle, the medley relay and backstroke will all be some of the girls’ strongest events this season, according to Carlson. Sophomore Courtney Prefonatine, who was part of last year’s CIF relay group, and incoming freshmen Devin Forker are some of the younger swimmers Carlson pegged to have breakout seasons.–EDS

Boys Track and Field

Last Season: The Dolphins won the South Coast League.

Athletes to Watch: Jake Ogden, Mason Coppi and Diego Southard.

Circle ’em: Mt. SAC Invitational (4/16) and Mission Viejo (4/27)

Outlook: For the Dana Hills High School boys track and field team, maintaining the strong elements of their game and polishing the weaker parts will be a huge part of continuing the success that the program is known for.

The distance crew, led by seniors Jake Ogden and Mason Coppi, will be strong yet again. Many of the Dolphins distance runners were members of the cross country team that placed third in the nation at the Nike Cross National in the fall.

Diego Southard will be leading the way in the hurdles and looking to build off his third-place finish in the South Coast League Finals last season.

“Right now we have a fairly balanced team,” head coach Craig Dunn said. “We were league champs last year and this year, on paper, we are supposed to get third in league. We will see if this team has the drive to get better.”

Headlining the field events will be pole vaulter Jack Riddler and long and triple jumper Charlie Kappes. They will be looking to complement the strong track events by earning points of their own.

“I think this year we are just as good as last year,” Kappes said. “If we can pull the sprints together with the field events, I think we have a chance of going somewhere in CIF.” –Michael Matossian

Seniors Claire Kao and Ella Hampson form a powerful one-two punch in the pole vault for the Dana Hills girls track and field team. Photo: Michael Matossian
Seniors Claire Kao and Ella Hampson form a powerful one-two punch in the pole vault for the Dana Hills girls track and field team. Photo: Michael Matossian

Girls Track and Field

Last Season: Dana Hills finished second in the South Coast League.

Athletes to Watch: Claire Kao, Sienna Serrao and Kathryn Kaloroumakis.

Circle ’em: Mt. SAC Invitational (4/16) and Mission Viejo (4/27)

Outlook: For Dana Hills girls track and field head coach Ryan Crane, finding the identity of this year’s team is key to making this season a success.

After finishing second in league last season, Crane decided to look within the school for talent that could improve the 2016 squad. Crane convinced 14 soccer players to try out for the track team and is in the process of assessing what events the newcomers would have the best chance to succeed in.

“This is the first time I have no idea where our strengths are going to lie,” Crane said. “Our strengths basically are going to lie in what we can create as a team.”

One event that will be a constant for the Dolphins is the pole vault. Dolphins senior vaulter Claire Kao is the reigning CIF-SS Division 1 champion and will be joined by senior Ella Hampson, who placed sixth in the pole vault finals last year.

“(Kao) has been a great leader, she’s put in a lot of time in the offseason and we are trying to let her open up to doing more than just the vault,” Crane said.

Distance runners Sienna Serrao, Kathryn Kaloroumakis and Alyssa White will lead the distance runners. All three had strong league final showings last year and are looking to translate that into deep postseason performances this year. –MM

L to R: Grady Yould, Jake Freeman and Nathan Simpson and the Dana Hills boys volleyball team will rely on their ball control and chemistry in 2016. Photo: Steve Breazeale
L to R: Grady Yould, Jake Freeman and Nathan Simpson and the Dana Hills boys volleyball team will rely on their ball control and chemistry in 2016. Photo: Steve Breazeale

Boys Volleyball

Last Season: 29-4 overall (8-0 league); advanced to the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1 Championships.

Players to Watch: Grady Yould, Jake Freeman and Thomas DeStefano.

Circle ’em: OC Championships (3/18-19) and San Clemente (4/21)

Outlook: Over the past two seasons, the Dana Hills boys volleyball team has built a brand centered on ball control and solid serve-receive. The Dolphins, who are a smaller team when compared to other top Division 1 programs, have been using their height, communication and agility to jumpstart their signature style of play.

Dana Hills returns four starters from last year’s team, which went undefeated in South Coast League play. Three of those players, seniors Grady Yould and Jake Freeman and junior Thomas DeStefano, are all natural liberos, according to head coach Oz Simmons. But the versatility of the trio allows the Dolphins to have three like-minded, ball control specialists on the court at the same time. Yould, a UCSB commit, and Freeman both play outside hitter while DeStefano gets the official libero label.

Yould believes the focus on control has pushed the Dolphins to another level.

“I feel like we have an advantage because, like last year, when we go up against a (taller opponent), we just have a consistent play throughout, no ups and downs. We just push through,” Yould said.

Dana Hills, which also returns junior Dylan Campeau at middle blocker, went 4-1 at the Tesoro Tournament last week and defeated Servite in three sets on March 1.—SB

The Dana Hills boys tennis team is hoping an aggressive style and new head coach will translate into wins in 2016. Photo: Steve Breazeale
The Dana Hills boys tennis team is hoping an aggressive style and new head coach will translate into wins in 2016. Photo: Steve Breazeale

Boys Tennis

Last Season: N/A

Players to Watch: Tyler Bloom, Marek Michulka, Michael Perez and Riley McCall.

Circle ’em: Capistrano Valley (3/24) and San Clemente (3/29)

Outlook: When Mike McCall heard that the Dana Hills boys tennis team was looking for a new head coach, the veteran tennis player was eager to jump at the opportunity. McCall will lead the Dolphins, who are now under the guidance of their second coach in two seasons, in 2016.

McCall said he hopes to provide stability for the program and believes a trio of freshman players and a talented senior are the foundation on which the team can build.

Senior Tyler Bloom is one of a handful of returners and will headline the Dana Hills singles unit. Freshmen Marek Michulka, Michael Perez and Riley McCall have emerged as talented singles players and will vie for a spot in the starting rotation throughout the season, according to McCall.

McCall noticed immediately how many of the Dolphins played with an aggressive style, forcing the issue on their opponents instead of laying back and participating in long rallies. McCall was excited when he saw this attribute and hopes it can lead to success down the road.

“They all play good attacking tennis. They all stay in the point well and they’re all very aggressive, which I like,” McCall said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people this year.”—SB

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