Westmont basketball hungry for more success

UCSB swim team members Josh Smith, Lukas Paulauskas, Charis Hoppe and Madison Tedesco at Monday's press luncheon. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

UCSB swim team members Josh Smith, Lukas Paulauskas, Charis Hoppe and Madison Tedesco at Monday’s press luncheon. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photos)

The weather is changing in Santa Barbara and so too are the sports seasons. At Monday’s Athletic Round Table Press Luncheon, there were reports from playoff teams at the pinnacle of their seasons as well as initial introductions to several winter sports teams just getting started.

Westmont’s men’s basketball team reached the NAIA national championship game last season and returns 11 players from last year’s team. The Warriors have also added a transfer from St. John’s who head coach John Moore expects to make an impact as the season progresses.

“A year ago, we had the greatest success we’ve ever had in our program’s history,” Moore said. “We finished second in the nation, and we were a little disappointed in finishing second in the nation.  So we have a lot of bite left in us.”

Male Athlete of the Week Michael Soracco

Male Athlete of the Week Michael Soracco

The Warriors, featuring returning NAIA All-American Honorable Mention Corey Blau, are off to a 3-2 start.

The Warrior women are off to an even better start, winning five of their first six games including a win over No. 11 Great Falls.

For the teams that have already been playing awhile, Bishop Diego football and Westmont women’s soccer – each coming off important postseason victories over the weekend – remain locked in at a high level.  The Cardinals topped Newbury Park 53-47 in the first round of CIF while Westmont defeated Biola to clinch the GSAC Tournament championship and an automatic bid into the national tournament.

Assistant coach Steve Robles shared some things that head coach Tom Crawford had written down for him.

“We were obviously very proud of our boys on Friday, and they demonstrated tremendous determination against a bigger school and bigger team. The guys responded with big plays when needed and when we fell behind the kids kept believing and working.”

With Robles at the luncheon were three players: Mike Soracco, Will Goodwin and John Harris. Soracco was named the Male Athlete of the Week for his 269-yard, two-touchdown performance in the game. Goodwin and Harris are both impact sophomores who play on both side of the ball and made big plays in Friday’s win.

Jackie Lopez finished two big plays for Westmont in its 3-0 defeat of rival Biola in the GSAC Tournament championship. Lopez was named Female Athlete of the Week representing the Warriors, who host an NAIA Tournament game on Saturday at noon.

The UCSB swim team is in the middle of its season having competed in a handful of dual meets in the fall. Next week is a big 3-day indoor meet at East L.A. College.

“It’s going to give us a good snap shot of where we are,” said Gauchos head coach Gregg Wilson.

Team leaders Lukas Paulauskas, Josh Smith, Madison Tedesco and Charis Hoppe joined Wilson.

Football coaches Craig Moropoulos and Rick Candaele remained positive even though their seasons were over. For the Vaqueros, it helped to go out with a wild 40-39 victory in their finale.

Female Athlete of the Week Jackie Lopez

Female Athlete of the Week Jackie Lopez

“It was probably the most rewarding win in my 10 years of coaching,” Moropoulos said.

He explained how the Vaqueros fell behind by 20 points in the second quarter before tying the game. Then they fell behind again in the fourth quarter by 11 points.

“Our guys never gave up and that’s a credit to them,” Moropoulos said.

With Moropoulos was freshman offensive lineman Ramon Coral and freshman corner Kameron  Carrol.

Candaele and the Warriors dropped their playoff opener at Antelope Valley but felt good about the way their season ended. Carpinteria had won four of its final five games in the regular season to clinch a postseason appearance.

Senior captain Pancho Sanchez never missed a practice or workout according to Candaele and deserves a lot of credit for holding the team together during the early season losses.

Candaele said even seeing Bishop Diego put up 53 points on Newbury Park felt good in a way after the Warriors held the Cardinals to 35 two weeks ago.

“I feel like I did a better job than I thought I did,” he said.

Another basketball team back in action is UCSB’s women’s basketball team. UCSB Deputy Associate Athletic Director Kelly Barsky spoke on behalf  of Bonnie Henrickson, who was making her way back from Idaho after a game on Sunday.

“I know Bonnie is excited to get back here and be able to participate in the Round Table coming up in these upcoming weeks,” Barsky said.

Chuckie Roth is moving from one season to another in water polo. His college team at SBCC won the WSC Tournament before falling in the SoCal Regional last week. Kendra Carr and Nicole Casares were two freshman who fueled SBCC’s success this season.

Roth also brought two of his high school players, who have the beginning to their seasons just after Thanksgiving. The team is using a disappointing end to last season as motivation going into this year.

Sarah Owens, a left-handed sophomore, and senior Hailey Gellert, an accomplished player going to UCSB next year, were present on Monday.

“In the preseason, these two girls have really elevated their games and taken it to a new level and I’m really proud of them,” Roth said. “I think it’s a great way to start a season with such improvement in the offseason.”