Volleyball coaches get a flood of happy messages

The text messages were flying fast and furious on the cellphones of a couple of volleyball coaches last week.

UCSB assistant men’s volleyball coach Lee Nelson said at Monday’s Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon that his phone “blew up” with congratulatory messages (text and voice mail) from friends and alums after the Gauchos upset top-ranked USC on Saturday night to win the MPSF Tournament championship and earn a berth in the NCAA Final Four at Penn State.

San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz said he got 15 text messages from the time he walked from the gym to his car in the parking lot at school after his Royals beat Santa Barbara for the first time in seven years last Tuesday.

San Marcos' Jackson Kunz was an honorable mention for athlete of the week for leading the Royals' boys volleyball team to a big Channel League victory over Santa Barbara High last week. (Vince Agapito Photo)

“Being an old guy, my thumbs don’t work that fast,” Rogers cracked about replying to everyone. “Trying to say thank you 15 times, it took me an hour to get out of there.”

UCSB baseball coach Bob Brontsema also received an uplifting text message from his injured freshman ballplayer Brandon Trinkwon, who two weekend’s ago suffered a serious injury when a foul ball off his bat struck him in the face.

“I just got a text from him and he’s asking, ‘What do I have to do to get back to playing?’ Brontsema said. “He’s made incredible strides. He wants to get back; the surgeries are going to be limited. He feels he can get back in a couple of weeks, so he might be playing (again) this year.”

That’s a text worth saving.

When Brontsema learned the NCAA seeded UCSB’s volleyball team fourth and paired it against USC in the national semifinals, he thought it smelled fishy.

“I’m sure that was more political than anything else,” he said. “They want to be assured that one east coast school would get into the finals. That’s probably how that played out.”

Penn State and Ohio State meet in the other semifinal on Thursday.

Nelson didn’t care to comment about playing USC again after the Gauchos beat the Trojans on their home floor for the MPSF’s automatic berth.

“We won the toughest tournament (in the country), but our season was pretty average, we went 11-11, so it makes sense,” he said of the seeding. “No one is going there to take third, you’re going there to win. You got to beat everybody at some point. We beat them down there (at USC). We got a little momentum against them. I wish we were playing them tonight because our guys are jacked up.”

Nelson said the team was leaving for the east on a red-eye flight on Monday.

Nelson noted that he was a junior on the last UCSB team that played in the Final Four back in 1988. The Gauchos lost to USC in the national championship match in five games.

Other luncheon highlights:

Jim Staunton, the outgoing CIF-Southern Section Commissioner, was a guest at the press luncheon.

Monday brought together two former Little League teammates and their coach. Nelson and Carpinteria baseball coach Pat Cooney played baseball together when they were kids, and their coach was Pat’s dad, Mike Cooney, a local attorney and the longtime assistant baseball coach at Santa Barbara High.

“You’re one of the best coaches I ever had,” said Nelson.

“I played for Coach Cooney over there,” said Pat with his smile, acknowledging his dad.

Pat Cooney was a man of many hats on Monday as he gave reports on his baseball team, the track team and softball team at Carpinteria.

As he spoke on track, he said he was figuratively wearing the wide-brimmed sun hat of track coach Van Latham. While reporting on softball, he changed to the visor of coach Henry Gonzalez. The track team is hosting the Tri-Valley League finals on Thursday and the CIF Division 4 Prelims on May 14.

The best things came in fours for the Carpinteria softball team. The Warriors went 4-0 last week, are ranked fourth in CIF Division 4 and are unbeaten in the Frontier League with four games remaining.

Dos Pueblos softball coach Lee Harris said the Chargers are 8-0 in league and play two big games against second-place Buena on Tuesday and Thursday.

San Marcos coach Jeff Swann reported that his Royals lost a tough nine-inning battle with Buena last week. The Royals play Carpinteria on Wednesday in a non-league game. That game will feature two of the top pitchers in the area: Kristen Berlo of San Marcos and Catalina Maldonado of Carpinteria.

Kuntz brought three of his volleyball players that represent the diversity of student-athletes at San Marcos. Tyler Lisea was captain of the water polo team, Ryan Gilmore captained the boys soccer team, and Ben McKenzie is a member of the Royal Knights Choir and the award-winning Madrigals singing ensemble.

On McKenzie, Kuntz said, “He missed the first match against Santa Barbara because he was on a choir trip. For a coach, that’s tough to swallow sometimes. But he came back and has led our team in kills the last couple of weeks. Ben is a high-energy guy who has solidified our outside hitting.”

The Stanford-bound McKenzie also used his vocal talents at home matches by singing the national anthem.

The Royals play a huge match against Dos Pueblos on Thursday to determine second place in the Channel League.

In prep baseball, Dos Pueblos coach Nate Mendoza said his team has huge three-game series this week against Buena.

Santa Barbara assistant George Rempe said the Dons play Ventura twice this week.

“We only beat them 3-1 the last time, so we have to be at our best for two more games,” he said

One win by the Dons would clinch at least a tie for the Channel League title.

Paul Gamberdella attended Monday's luncheon to accept the Sportsperson of the Month award from Laurie Leighty.

Rempe said when players are struggling and feeling pressured he tells them to remember the saying: “It’s not arms and legs. It’s important, it means a lot, but it’s not arms and legs. Just relax and play.”

Dave Loveton, sports information specialists at SBCC, said playoff fever has hit the school, as its baseball and softball teams earned spots in the Southern California Regionals. The baseball team hosts Riverside in a best-of-three series beginnning Friday, while the softball team travels to Santa Ana on Saturday for a best-of-three playoff series.

Westmont track coach Jason Oatis reported that the Warriors won three GSAC track and field titles and qualified athletes for the NAIA Nationals in five events.

Sportsperson of the Month: Paul Gamberdella was recognized for his diligent work on the SBART’s annual High-Five Golf Tournament, which raises money for the local schools’ athletic departments.

Gamberdella has been a member of the tournament organizing committee since 1999. In that time, the event has raised $200,000.

“Without Paul’s dedication and commitment to this tournament the five benefiting high schools (Santa Barbara, San Marcos, Dos Pueblos, Carpinteria and Bishop Diego) would not be receiving these essential funds for their various sports during these tough economic times,” said Rich Hanna, committee chairperson and the incoming SBART president.

Gamberdella is a local guy. He was a three-sport star at San Marcos before going on to Cal Poly, where he earned all-conference honors as a catcher.

He is a senior vice president at the Radius Commercial Real Estate Group.

He and his wife, Marla, have five kids, ranging from ages 10 to 2.

That prompted a crack from award presenter Laurie Leighty:

“He has no idea how busy he’s going to be in the next 10 years,” she said.

San Marcos' Dasha Depew

Santa Barbara High's Collin Dewell

Athletes of the Week: San Marcos swimmer Dasha Depew is the female winner. She broke a 25-year-old school record in the 100 butterfly, posting a time of 1:02.26 to beat the previous mark of 1:02.51, set by Jo Wallschlaeger in 1985.

The male winner is Santa Barbara High baseball player Collin Dewell. The Arizona-bound pitcher-center fielder blasted three home runs — one in each game — in the crucial three-game series against Dos Pueblos. He also hit two doubles, drove in eight runs and scored five, helping the Dons win two and move closer to a Channel League title.