Lancers answer Palmer’s halftime challenge

Frankie Palmer simply wouldn’t allow La Serna High’s football team to lose Friday night.
The Lancers trailed visiting Burbank by a touchdown twice in their CIF-SS Southeast Division semifinal at Cal High, once in the first quarter and once in the third. But Palmer and his teammates were determined to reach their third consecutive Southeast Division final, and losing to the Bulldogs simply wasn’t part of the plan.
Burbank scored on a pair of big plays in the first quarter, including one set up by La Serna’s only turnover of the game. With the score tied at 14 at halftime, Palmer lit into his teammates with an NC-17 tirade during the intermission, demanding they raise their intensity level or answer to him personally.
“We came out flat,” Palmer said of the 11-2 Lancers, who had pounded their last seven opponents into submission by the time halftime came around. “In the last (seven) games, we hadn’t been in that situation. “We knew Burbank was a great team and it wouldn’t be easy.
“It wasn’t our greatest game,” Palmer allowed, “but we got it done.”
The Bulldogs (10-3) regained the lead on their first drive of the second half when Oharjee Brown caught a ball that deflected off two La Serna defenders and scored a 38-yard touchdown. Palmer, however, scored the Lancers’ next two touchdowns, including the game-winner with just 23 seconds left. Both came on runs to the right, covering 2 and 3 yards. He also completed 12 of 23 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
“That’s Frankie,” said La Serna coach Margarito Beltran. “Put the ball in his hands with the game on the line, and usually good things happen.”
La Serna’s defense gave up three long touchdowns, but also made huge plays when they needed them. The Lancers stopped Burbank on fourth down twice in the first half, including on fourth-and-goal from the 1 when the Bulldogs were looking to take a 21-7 lead.
But the single biggest play came from safety D’Andre Sanchez, who intercepted Burbank quarterback Ryan Meredith and returned it 34 yards for a TD in the second quarter, tying the game at 14.
Just three plays earlier, Sanchez had been flagged for pass interference.
“I saw the ball under thrown and just tried to make a play on it,” said the senior.
The victory means La Serna will play in its third consecutive Southeast Division final, where they’ll meet top-seeded and undefeated Norwalk next Saturday. The site of the game will be determined later today.

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Things only get tougher from here for Heralds

As a reward for topping the state’s 26th-ranked team on Tuesday, Whittier Christian gets to travel to play the 11th-ranked team when the CIF State girls volleyball playoffs continue Saturday.
The Heralds beat La Costa Canyon in four sets Tuesday in the first round of the Division II regionals, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-15. As the No. 4 seed, Whittier Christian will next face unbeaten and top-seeded Corona Santiago on the road Saturday. The Sharks are 38-0 this season and have only dropped one set this season, to Oaks Christian in last week’s CIF-SS Division 2AA final.
The Heralds, ranked 30th in the same poll before Tuesday’s match, faced Santiago once this season, and lost in two sets at the Ayala Tournament. But Whittier Christian (33-6), the two-time defending Division 2A champion, seems ready for the challenge.
“They have a really great team,” said senior libero Nicole Santos, who finished with 10 digs. “We’re excited to go up against them.”
Tuesday’s victory was the Heralds’ first in the state tournament since 2009.

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A look at 6-10

So the Whittier-area boys basketball preview that publishes Wednesday takes a look at my top five area teams. They are: 1. Cantwell-Sacred Heart; 2. La Mirada; 3. El Rancho; 4. Santa Fe; 5. Pioneer. My reasons are explained in the story.
Here’s a look at my next five, and a quick thought on each. As with my preseason football Top 10 – which had La Mirada in the first spot – these are educated guesses at best. As the season grinds on, the best teams will sort themselves out and the picture will become clearer.

6. Cal – The two-time defending Del Rio League champions have a new coach, but return only two players that made significant contributions a year ago.
7. La Habra – With a junior-heavy team last season, the Highlanders reached the Division 2A playoffs. They’re seniors now, and could be a part of the Freeway League mix.
8. Montebello – First-year coach Nathan Yu has a luxury in the Almont League – size. Senior wing Andy Munoz, an All-Almont League first teamer last year, is 6-6.
9. Whittier – The Cardinals return three starters from a year ago, including leading scorer Guillermo Blas, an All-DRL first-team selection.
10. St. Paul – The Swordsmen beat Cantwell in league play last season and got to the second round of the 4A playoffs, but nine seniors graduated.

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State tourney offers Heralds another chance to compete

Winning championships – be they Olympic League, CIF-SS Division 2A or State Division II – were talked about prior to the 2013 season by Whittier Christian’s girls volleyball team.

That wasn’t, however, a much-discussed topic once the season began. Instead, the Heralds figured if they played well against the best teams available, the championships would take care of themselves.

“Our main goal was to compete at the highest level we could,” said coach Shawn Hunter. “The main things we talked about were competing and effort and fighting hard.”

After a regular season that saw Whittier Christian play teams like 1AA quarterfinalist Redondo, 2AA quarterfinalist Riverside ML King and unbeaten 2AA champion Corona Santiago, the Heralds claimed both the Olympic League and Division 2AA titles, just as they did last season.

And beginning Tuesday at 7 p.m., the Heralds (33-6) can concentrate on the state tournament. As the No. 4 seed in Division II, they’ll host No. 5 La Costa Canyon from the San Diego Section in a first-round match. The Mavericks, runners-up in the San Diego Open Division, are 25-9 and feature USC-bound Brittany Abercrombie, a 6-foot-3 left-handed opposite.

A season ago, Whittier Christian was seeded seventh out of eight teams in the SoCal Regionals and lost its first-round match to King. This year, the Heralds are confident they can make a longer run, even with a probable match with Santiago (37-0) in the second round.

“This is another opportunity,” said Hunter. “We’re excited to keep that hope (of continuing to play) alive.”

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La Serna athletes top All-DRL water polo, volleyball teams

La Serna teammates Ben Goncharenko and George Mooney shared the Del Rio League water polo Player of the Year honor after leading the Lancers to another league title and on a quarterfinal playoff run.
Goncharenko, a senior goalie, and sophomore driver Mooney helped La Serna to a 14-15 overall record and a quarterfinal berth in the CIF-SS Division 5 playoffs.
In volleyball, La Serna junior Samantha Neely earned Del Rio Player of the Year honors after pacing the Lancers to a 25-4 overall record and the Del Rio League title. La Serna reached the quarterfinals of the Division 3AA playoffs.
Here’s a look at the complete water polo and volleyball teams:

All-Del Rio League Water Polo
Co-Players of the Year

Ben Goncharenko, Senior, La Serna
George Mooney, Sophomore, La Serna

First team
Kyle Jabin, Cal, Senior
Andre Prado, Cal, Senior
Elijah Abrego, Cal, Senior
Ricardo Robles, El Rancho, Senior
Anthony Cadena, El Rancho, Senior
Jacob Cantu, La Serna, Junior
Bryan Santi, La Serna, Sophomore
Eli Acosta, La Serna, Junior
Steven Marcy, La Serna, Junior
Steven Mendoza, Whittier, Senior
Pavie Pejovski, Whittier, Sophomore

Second team
Francisco Duran, Cal, Senior
Nathan Ramirez, Cal, Senior
Daniel Gomez, El Rancho, Senior
Parlox Rodriguez, El Rancho, Senior
Martin Alcala, El Rancho, Senior
Jason Curiel, El Rancho, Sophomore
Austin Romsaur, La Serna, Senior
Diego Perez, La Serna, Senior
Ryan Quevedo, Whittier, Junior
Jacob Garrido, Whittier, Junior

Honorable mention
James Wilson, Cal, Senior
Logan Hanley, Cal, Junior
Michael Morales, El Rancho, Junior
Francisco Franco, El Rancho, Senior
Nicolas Murillo, El Rancho, Junior
Anthony Najar, El Rancho, Senior
Ismael Garcia, Santa Fe, Senior
Tad Corona, Santa Fe, Senior
Enrique Abundis, Whittier, Junior

All-Del Rio League Volleyball
Player of the Year

Samantha Neely, La Serna, Junior

First team
Krystal Ferreira, Cal, Senior
Nicole Miller, Cal, Junior
Melissa Martinez, La Serna, Senior
Ali Valverde, La Serna, Senior
Paige Tillman, La Serna, Sophomore
Nataly Reynoso, Pioneer, Junior
Lyzette Reveles, Santa Fe, Junior
Kristin Jimenez, Whittier, Senior

Second team
Yaniel Jiron, Cal, Senior
Madison Mader, Cal, Sophomore
Destini Johnson, El Rancho, Sophomore
Tammy Doelker, La Serna, Senior
Raquel Norzagaray, Pioneer, Senior
Krisalyn Levi, Pioneer, Senior
Erika Alvarado, Santa Fe, Junior
Lydia Gil, Whittier, Senior

Honorable mention
Dinelle Rivas, Cal, Senior
Wendy Contreras, El Rancho, Junior
Crystal Rodriguez, El Rancho, Junior
Amanda Zagorski, La Serna, Junior
Emily Coronado, Pioneer, Senior
Joslyn Villegas, Santa Fe, Senior
Emily Avila, Whittier, Senior

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Heralds earn a first-round home match in SoCal Regionals

Whittier Christian’s girls volleyball team drew the No. 4 seed in Southern California and will host a first-round match against La Costa Canyon on Tuesday when the Division II playoffs begin.
The Heralds are coming off a sweep of Mayfield in the CIF-SS Division 2A final Saturday and sport a 33-6 record. Last season, they also won the 2A title but were seeded No. 7 and lost a first-round SoCal match on the road to end their season.
La Costa Canyon finished as runner-up in the San Diego Section Open Division. The Mavericks have a 25-9 record and are seeded No. 5.
Tuesday’s winner will likely face No. 1 seed Corona Santiago in Saturday’s second round. The Sharks are 37-0 this season after topping Oaks Christian 3-1 in the Division 2AA final, surrendering their first set of the season in the victory. Santiago opens the playoffs Tuesday at home against Woodland Hills Taft (31-11), which won the L.A. City Section Division 2 title.
The state finals will be held at Santiago Canyon College in Orange on Dec. 7.

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Cal High to host La Serna-Burbank Southest Division semifinal

Friday’s CIF-SS Southeast Division semifinal between La Serna and Burbank will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Cal High.
Both teams take 10-2 records into the game, and both are coming off lopsided quarterfinal victories. La Serna routed Diamond Bar 51-7 and Burbank was a 42-0 winner over Santa Fe. La Serna is seeded No. 2 in the division.
In the other semifinal, top-seeded Norwalk (12-0) will visit No. 4 Muir (11-1).

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Heralds once again reign supreme in Division 2A

When Whittier Christian won last season’s CIF-SS Division 2A girls volleyball title with an all-junior starting lineup, it was pretty clear the Heralds would be the team to beat in 2013.
Well, they were, and no one could, at least not during the Division 2A playoffs. Whittier Christian swept a young-but-tough squad from Mayfield on Saturday by scores of 25-19, 25-19, 25-19. It was the Heralds’ second consecutive championship and their third trip to the finals in a row.
“It’s surreal,” senior setter Jennifer Washle, one of eight seniors on the team, said of winning back-to-back crowns. “It doesn’t even feel like we won. This goal that we set for ourselves in the summer just happened. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Whittier Christian improved its record to 33-6 and awaits Sunday’s Division 2 pairings release for the upcoming Southern California Regionals. The Heralds are hoping for a little better draw than they got last year, when they were seeded No. 7 out of eight teams and lost on the road in the first round to Riverside ML King.
“We would love to make a great run and enjoy it,” coach Shawn Hunter said of the SoCal playoffs.
Seniors Kylee Wolfe (15 kills, 8 digs), Deanna Blaine (11 kills) and Stephanie Stevenson (10 kills, 2 solo blocks, 3 block assists) did most of the damage, and Washle added 40 assists and five aces, including the match clincher in Set 3.
Whittier Christian played most of the season – and all of the playoffs – with a large target firmly affixed to its back. But the Heralds lost just one set in five matches and showed a remarkable capacity for remaining calm and resilient.
“It’s really hard to come back and win again,” said Wolfe, “and to accomplish that is amazing.”

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Top-seeded La Habra ousted in second round by Newport Harbor

And then there was one …
Whittier-area football teams took it on the chin in Friday’s second round of the CIF-SS playoffs, with four of the five teams eliminated. Losses from Santa Fe (42-0 vs. Burbank), Montebello (41-7 vs. Monrovia) and Schurr (28-14 vs. Arroyo) weren’t surprises. But the shocker of the night was top-seeded La Habra losing to Newport Harbor 49-48 in the Southwest Division. I felt the Highlanders were a lock to reach their first final since 2010. Instead, Friday’s loss was their third in a row in either the first or second round of the playoffs.
The only area team to advance was La Serna, which routed Diamond Bar 51-7 in the Southeast Division and improved to 10-2. The Lancers, division finalists the last two years, will host Burbank next week in the semifinals.

Friday’s scores
Mid-Valley Division

Monrovia 41, Montebello 7
Arroyo 28, Schurr 14
Southeast Division
La Serna 51, Diamond Bar 7
Burbank 42, Santa Fe 0
Southwest Division
Newport Harbor 49, La Habra 48

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