Press Luncheon: San Marcos unbeaten with strong starting six

Later on Monday, the Athletic Round Table hosted former UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland, with Rick Wilson, at the annual Prelude to March Madness event at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Later on Monday, the Athletic Round Table hosted former UCLA men’s basketball coach Ben Howland, pictured with Rick Wilson, at the annual Prelude to March Madness event at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion. (Presidio Sports Photos)


The starting lineup for San Marcos’ boys volleyball team is a tight unit, using not just talent but great chemistry to go undefeated so far this season while winning a pair of tournament titles.

Royals head coach Roger Kuntz doesn’t want to mess with success, so the entire Royals starting six attended the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon on Monday.

San Marcos' Riley Heiduk was recognized as a Phil Womble Award winner on Monday.

San Marcos’ Riley Heiduk was recognized as a Phil Womble Award winner on Monday.

“I’m really excited about the six players I brought today,” Kuntz said. “These guys, when other teams have to walk on the court, this is our starting six, so they have to come through these guys to win anything or get any points. And so it’s hard for me to break them up and so I didn’t. I brought all six today.”

Joining Kuntz were opposites Shane Hauschild and Baker Johnson, middle Taylor Mann, libero Sean Estabrooks, setter Christian Widmer and setter Nick Rockwell.

Estabrooks is a two-sport athlete and the captain of the soccer team. Mann, although undersized for a middle, makes up for it with a 38″ vertical leap and is bringing in two kills and two blocks per set this season. Opposites Shane Hauschild and Baker Johnson – also with a 38″ vertical – are crushing balls set from Widmer – the DPI’s Most Valuable Player – and Rockwell, an all-state player from Arizona who transferred for his senior year.

Next up for the Royals (14-0) is Arroyo Grande on Tuesday followed by a big Channel League match with Dos Pueblos on Thursday. (NOTE: This article originally said the match had been changed to Wednesday.)

Athlete of the Week Mason Casady

Athlete of the Week Mason Casady

Athlete of the Week Josh Wang

Athlete of the Week Josh Wang

Monday’s luncheon happened to be held on St. Patrick’s Day, which made it easy for Santa Barbara High to be in the holiday spirit. The school colors of green and gold have been filling J.R. Richards Gym as the Dons girls basketball team continues its marathon season into the CIF State Regional semifinals.

“It’s the season that never ends,” said Dons head coach Andrew Butcher as he arrived at the podium.

Santa Barbara High, the No. 1 seed in Division 3, hosts Mt. Miguel on Tuesday.

“They’re bigger than us, faster than us, stronger than us, and maybe better than us,” Butcher said. “But it’s in our gym and we’re kind of on a roll, and I would bet on us if I were able to bet on high school sports.”

Santa Barbara High’s baseball team is off to a 5-0 start by playing outstanding defense. Dons assistant coach George Rempe brought Harry Parker, Daniel Davis and Tim Stickles for this very reason.

Parker, who plays third base, and Stickles, at second, have not made an error yet. Davis made a big-time catch in the outfield on Saturday that propelled the Dons to victory.

“However the real show starts tomorrow when we play DP in the Channel League,” Rempe said. “DP has played a very tough preseason schedule with great competition, and they have great hitters. We’ll find out how good our 5-0 record is when we play them tomorrow.

Being that it was St. Patrick’s Day, Rempe noted that Parker has been accepted to Notre Dame.

“All three of these seniors are hugely important to our team chemistry and they all have a great work ethic,” Rempe said.

Speaking of that difficult schedule, Dos Pueblos’ head coach Nick Katzenstein was encouraged by the report from UCSB Men’s Golf coach Steve Lass. The Gaucho golf team had struggled for much of the season, but Jordan Epstein’s late-season surge put a smile on Lass’ face.

“Thanks for the reminder that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Katzenstein, who brought senior pitchers Josh Tedeschi and Daniel Buratto.

On top of a tough schedule playing in the Easton Tournament, the Chargers have been dealing with injuries and a few too many defensive miscues. But if the Chargers can turn around their season like Epstein and the Gaucho golf team, then good things are to come.

Female Athlete of the Week Rachelle Visser of SBCC Swimming

Female Athlete of the Week Rachelle Visser of SBCC Swimming

“It’s been a very disappointing season up until two weeks ago,” Lass said before recounting Epstein’s past two tournaments.

At an 11-team tournament hosted by Long Beach State, the Gauchos “all of a sudden” were in the hunt for the team title but settled for 2nd place. Epstein missed a birdie putt to win it and Lass said he was “devastated,” but the senior came back again a week later in the same situation and eagled the final hole to bring the Gauchos their first title of the season. It was Epstein’s first collegiate individual title.

Christine Ramos reported for UCSB’s softball team, which is off to the best start in program history. The Gauchos (18-6) went 3-1 at the Gaucho Classic II over the weekend which featured an inside-the-park home run by Kristen Clark.

Jeff Swann took the podium for San Marcos’ softball team. He started by thanking those that helped install roughly $50,000 worth of upgrades to the Royals’ softball facility during the offseason.

“I just wanted to share how fortunate we all are to live in such a great community,” said Swann. “We’re just so indebted to this community for the support that we got with our project so we’re able now to reap some of the benefits of that.”

With Coach Swann were senior captains Veronica Villarreal and Stephanie Swann. Villarreal has been invaluable to the team by manning the hot corner on defense and setting the table on offense. Villarreal and Swann have scored over a quarter of San Marcos’ runs so far this season. Swann can play every position in the field and is batting .500 with an on-base percentage of .593.

Santa Barbara High’s softball coach, Victor Alvarez, said the Dons are excited after winning 3-of-4 games last week. Alvarez brought his “Sensational Sophomores” Delaney Smith, Olivia “Striker” Harris and Jasmine Manson.

The biggest moment from the Dons’ week came when Manson delivered a walk-off two-run home run on Saturday to beat Carpinteria.

The Dons started 0-3 but have rallied and are now 4-4.

Santa Barbara City College Sports Information Director Dave Loveton stepped up to the plate and reported for the Vaqueros’ sports teams. The baseball team is ranked No. 3 in Southern California with a record of 15-5. A big part of the success are former local prep players Connor McManigal, Trey Barrett and Jimmy Brakka.

UCSB’s baseball team is another squad finding early-season success on the diamond. The Gauchos just took 2-of-3 from Wichita State and were ranked in the top-25 last week for the first time since 2001.

The next SBART press luncheon is scheduled for Monday, April 1 at Harry’s Plaza Cafe. It is open to the public and a buffet lunch is $10.