Our story of the year is more than just a sports story. It’s a story of love, family, community, courage, perseverance and inner strength.
When Kirsten Moore’s Westmont women’s basketball team won its first NAIA national championship in March, it was the storybook ending everyone who knows Moore and her program wanted to see.
The Warriors defeated Lee, Tennessee, 71-65, in the national title game in Frankfort, Ky. The championship came 10 months after the tragic death of Moore’s husband, Alex. He died from complications after surgery for Crohn’s disease.
Seven weeks after his death, their first child was born. She was named Alexis.
The Westmont community and people throughout the area stepped up and took care of Kirsten and Alexis.
“It’s a story of a team and a community coming together to take care of a coach and take care of each other with unbelievable results,” Westmont men’s basketball coach John Moore told columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a story of magical synergy.”
After her team suffered a pair of lopsided home defeats last December, Kirsten’s Warriors won 17 straight to start 2013, including a 14-0 run through the Golden State Athletic Conference. The streak was snapped in the championship game of the GSAC Tournament. But the team, led by superstar player Tugce Canitez of Turkey, regrouped and won five in a row at the NAIA National Tournament to capture the championship and the hearts of many.
“I am really happy for my players and the journey we have been through as a group,” said Kirsten Moore following the championship game. “The perseverance we have shown through trials on and off the court seasoned us for all of the close games we have had throughout the entire tournament.”
Our other top stories of 2013:
There was a changing of the guard at UCSB as legendary women’s volleyball coach Kathy Gregory announced her retirement after a 38-year career. The Volleyball Hall of Famer was replaced by Nicole Lantagne Welch, from the University of Miami. Welch guided the Gauchos to a share of the Big West title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, their first tourney berth since 2009. Gregory guided the Gauchos to 27 NCAA Tournaments, dating back to the tournament’s inception in 1981.
Stamatia Scarvelis of Dos Pueblos had a monster year in the shot put ring. As a junior, she repeated as CIF State Champion, the first county female athlete to achieve win back-to-back state titles. She also excelled on the national and international scenes, winning the USA Track Junior National title and capturing the gold medal at the Junior Pan American Games. She was the national high school leader in the shot put at 51-11.
Noah Burke of Santa Barbara High made the shot heard around the town. He sank a half-court shot at the buzzer to stun San Marcos, 56-55, in overtime at the Royals’ Thunderhut. (VIDEO) “It just felt good when I let it go,” said Burke, who was lifted onto the shoulders of the jubilant Santa Barbara fans. “It’s like a dream. I don’t even understand this is happening right now. I felt like I was on top of the world for a couple of seconds.”
There wasn’t a superstar runner on the Dos Pueblos boys cross country team but the boys carried on the program’s winning tradition and placed higher at the CIF State Meet than any previous team — the Chargers finished third. On the girls side, Addi Zerrenner capped a brilliant career at DP by finishing second at the State Meet.
The UCSB baseball team ended a 12-year postseason drought, as the Gauchos received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. UCSB, which went 35-25 and 17-10 in the competitive Big West, beat Texas A&M, 6-4, in its first regional game and then lost a pair of hearbreakers, 3-2 to host Oregon State and 5-4 to Texas A&M.
The Amgen Tour of California returned to Santa Barbara for the first time since 2008. The cycling event’s Fourth Stage finished on Cabrillo Boulevard and Calle Cesar Chavez. American Tyler Farrar won the 83.6-mile stage that started in Santa Clarita. Stage 5 started the next morning on Cabrillo Blvd. and ended in Avila Beach.
Santa Barbara’s Conner Coffin won his first pro division title at the annual Rincon Classic surfing contest. Coffin bested defending champion Mike McCabe and past champion Kilian Garland in the final. He later won his second straight Pro Junior Championship at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.
Like Summer Solstice and Fiesta, Night Moves has become part of the fabric of the Santa Barbara lifestyle. The 18-week late afternoon endurance sports social (a 1k ocean swim at Leadbetter Beach, 5k run along Shoreline Drive and post-events party) celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Ema Boateng left UCSB after his freshman season, signing a professional soccer contract with Helsingborgs IF, a Premier League club in Sweden. Boateng was the Gatorade National Player of Year during his senior year at Cate School. He had an impressive tryout with the Swedish club in June and was signed to a 3 1/2-year contract. Meanwhile, back at UCSB, the Gauchos won the Big West regular season title and returned to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.
Dos Pueblos left-handed pitching ace Gabe Speier realized a dream when he signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox. Speier, who helped Dos Pueblos win its second straight Channel League title, was a 19th-round draft pick in June. He had a scholarship offer from UCSB.
The Santa Barbara Soccer Club knew it had a special group of boys a few years ago. That group went on to win the U.S. Youth Soccer Boys U-14 national title in 2012. The team moved up an age group in 2013 and won again, beating Dix Hills Elite of New York in the final, 2-1, in overtime.
Providence earned its first CIF-SS title as the girls basketball team defeated Rio Hondo Prep, 49-46, to capture the Division 6 championship. The team, led by CIF Player of the Year and Westmont recruit Sydney Hedges, also won a first-round game in the State Tournament.
Led by No. 1 player Kelsie Bryant, the Carpinteria girls tennis team won its second straight CIF-Southern Section Division 5 title, beating Riverside Poly, 12-6. “Winning CIF for the second time is so unbelievable and exciting,” Bryant said. “We’ve worked toward this day the entire season and it paid off.”