Heil says it’s all about how you finish the season

The Dons soccer players were all in attendence at Harry's on Monday.

Coaches took a cue from Santa Barbara High boys soccer coach Todd Heil that it’s more important on how your team finishes than starts the season.

Heil and his Dons were honored and recognized at the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon on Monday for winning the CIF State Regional Division 2 soccer championship last month.

Heil said his team started the season slow, but it discovered its identity as the season progressed, peaked at the right time, reached the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 final and won the CIF state regional title.

“I told our team, ‘Let’s make this our moment,’ Heil said. “We decided to do something we’ve never accomplished before. As storied as our program is, dating back to the 70s, we never accomplished a CIF state regional championship. And we ended this year doing something we’venever done before and adding another star, a different star, that we’ll have on a jersey, polos and other stuff.”

Soccer teams traditionally put stars on the uniforms to signify the number of major championships they’ve won. The Dons have six for CIF Southern Section titles.

“For me, this was something beyond special,” Heil said of the road to the regional title. “It was something we never could have imagined. Last year, we knew we had a very good team (that won a CIF Division 2 championship).

“This year, our identity is what we questioned most, and our identity became our work rate. We worked harder than any other team and any other team I’ve coached in the last 12 years of this program. This team never gave up, never quit.”

Heil noted the amount of travel the Dons did during their playoff run made winning the title even more significant.

“We traveled 2,000 miles this year,” he said. “So, if you drive straight from Santa Barbara, you’d hit New Orleans — 1999 miles.

“The travel, the length of the season was incredible, but where we ended was where we thought we might not ever get to, a CIF State Regional championship.”

At next Monday’s luncheon, the Cate boys soccer team will be honored for winning the CIF-SS Division 7 championship.

First-year SBCC baseball coach Ryan Thompson related to Santa Barbara High’s turnaround. After a 1-5 start, his team clinched a tie for the Western State Conference North Division championship last Saturday.

“I have a feeling our kids didn’t see what was going on for us right now,” Thompson said of the early struggles. “The kids got a lot more experience and quality in their intestinal fortitude, so to speak.”

He told the players after blanking Cuesta to clinch the title tie, “This is far from over. I hope they understand that.”

UCSB softball coach Brie Galicinao also appreciated Santa Barbara soccer’s championship story.

“Finishing strong, that’s what we’re shooting for right now,” she said.

Galicinao hopes to have leading hitter Keiliani Jennings back in her lineup. The shortstop — who is batting .450 in the Big West — hurt her knee in Sunday’s loss to UC Riverside. She was going to learn the extent of the injury this week.

“I hope Harry’s Plaza and the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table gives us magic for the doctor,” the coach said. “At best, we hope Keiliani can play like a major league baseball player and bat and hobble on to first or hit it over (the fence) and walk around the bases.”

UCSB baseball coach Bob Brontsema hopes his team can create the magic the Dons soccer team did to turn its season around after losing three tough one-run games at Cal State Fullerton over the weekend.

“It’s nice to hear that some of these teams started off slow and came back to win championships,” he said. “I’ll take that message back with me for our pregame speech.”

The Gauchos get right back at it on Tuesday with a nonconference game against Pepperdine before returning to Big West action with a three-game home series against Long Beach State, beginning Thursday.

Brontsema remains upbeat.

“Through all the dark times you go through in a middle of a losing streak, you definitely have to find positives, and there was lot of positiveness for us to find,” he said.

Other highlights:

Dos Pueblos boys tennis coach Liz Frech announced that doubles team of Caleb Franzen and Jake Roberts will be playing in the CIF Doubles division at the prestigious Ojai Valley Invitational tennis tournament next week.

Also going to Ojai will be the NAIA No. 6-ranked men’s tennis team, who is coached by multiple-time Ojai champion Mark Basham.

Basham has the Warriors on a roll. They recently scored a big conference win over No. 4 Azusa Pacific.

“That was a huge win for us. It was really inspiring for our team going into nationals,” he said.

Basham said the Warriors have a good shot at winning a national title in Mobile, Ala. in three weeks. “We made the quarterfinals last year, and we hope to improve on that.”

The UCSB men’s and women’s tennis teams head into postseason play next weekend at the Big West Championships in Indian Wells, where the court temperatures will be between 120-130 degrees, said men’s coach Marty Davis.

“We’re going to be working really hard on fitness,” he said. “We’ll be the fittest team in the Big West.”

Both men’s and women’s teams finished their regular seasons on winning notes to build confidence for the Big West Tournament.

Mired in a long losing streak, San Marcos baseball coach Tony Vanetti looked at the positive and said his team is coming together.

“It’s frustrating but rewarding to watch them struggle, but continue to fight and battle and play as hard as they can for as long as they can.” he said.

Vanetti noted that his team can’t seem to get any breaks, but “the effort is always there, which is all you could ask from a coach.”

Special Olympics Athlete of the Month: Swimmer Rachel MacKenzie won three gold medals and a bronze at a recent swim meet in Ventura.

“She always has a smile on her face,” coach Leah Simpson said of MacKenzie. “She’s very positive. She has one of the most positive attitudes on the team.”

Brontsema got a lift from MacKenzie’s smile.

“Her smile is beautiful and infectious,” he said. “To come in to see that beautiful smile, helps me through the day a bit.”

Dos Pueblos' Jessica Escalante

Santa Barbara High's Danny Zandona

Athletes of the Week: Santa Barbara baseball player Danny Zandona won the award for boys. In a Channel League game against Buena last week, the senior hit a grand slam and pitched a complete-game shutout.”

Junior Jessica Escalante of Dos Pueblos was the girls winner. She had a big week on the track, winning the 100 and 200 in a dual meet win over Buena and anchoring the Chargers 4×100 relay team to a school record of 49.56 at the Mt. SAC Relays. The record stood for 20 years.

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