Providence Hall takes big step into CIF play

It’s been a long time since there has been a new kid on the block in the local high school sports world, but the Providence Hall Lions have officially moved in. Friday’s girls volleyball match at Cornerstone Christian will be the Lions’ first official CIF contest, making Providence Hall the eighth local high school in CIF play.

The boys basketball team prepares for the season with sand sprints at West Beach. (Photos by James Daly)

“We’re the first (local) school in over 40 years to join the CIF. It has been the status quo for a long time,” noted Athletic Director Keith Luberto, who is serious about having the Lions make an impact on the playing field. “It will be interesting to see, we want to compete at the state level in all of our sports.”

Providence Hall High School, housed on the Notre Dame Elementary campus in downtown Santa Barbara and built on a christian foundation, is starting its fourth year of classes and has only 74 students enrolled. That’s up from 27 in its first year and it’s enough this year to field teams in girls volleyball, cross country, boys and girls basketball, and track & field. With plans to grow to around 150 students, more sports like boys & girls soccer, baseball and boys volleyball will be added.

The Lions have been competing athletically since opening, but had to bring outside help in to fill out rosters.

“It was hard to have school spirit when a lot of the kids don’t even go to the school that play on the team,” Luberto noticed. “The very first year for boys basketball we had one boy on the team that actually went to our school. Just to have a team I had to go out and get kids. I had six graders, seventh graders. I had guys who had never played basketball before.

“But now, it’s us.”

Friday marks the first CIF contests for the girls volleyball and boys cross country teams.

The volleyball team travels to Cornerstone Christian for a 6 p.m. match while the cross country team will compete at the Seaside Invitational in Ventura at 2 p.m. To see them in person, the volleyball team plays its first home match next Saturday in Wesmont’s gym while the cross country team will be competing in town at the Blue Lagoon Invitational on Sept. 25 followed by the Dos Pueblos Invitational on Oct. 1.

Faith Emerson elevates above the net at the Lady Lions volleyball practice at the Carrillo Rec Center.

While Luberto dreams of postseason success and a long line of Lion achievements on the playing field in the future, expectations are tempered in the first year of CIF competition.

“We had 11 girls try out which was pleasantly surprising given the size of the school,” said girls volleyball coach Dale Colburn, who’s being assisted by Laura Trudelle.

Because Providence Hall is not affiliated with any league this year, the girls volleyball team – and both basketball teams in the winter – will have to win at least 80 percent of its games just to make the playoffs. The school also doesn’t have its own gym, forcing its teams to find room where they can. The girls volleyball team has five home matches this season. Three will be played at Westmont and two at the Page Youth Center.

Luberto said he has four different locations for his indoor teams to practice at, but is trying to make some changes to the gym at St. Mary’s Seminary so that his volleyball and basketball teams can have more of a home court.

“I know the board is working hard on facilities but the first priority, of course, is where can we have a school,” Luberto said, citing Providence Hall’s desire to have its own campus.

As for joining a league, Luberto thinks the Lions would be a good fit in the Omega League but says there are several possibilities to be explored.

For now, taking the step into CIF is momentous for the young school.

“It’s exciting to see the program develop and grow,” Colburn said.

Nathan Hodson leads the pack at a recent Providence Hall cross-country practice at Alameda Park.