St. Paul’s Orozco, Maier take home top honors in CIF Division 3

The postseason just keeps getting better for St. Paul’s Koreen Orozco.
After leading the Swordsmen to the CIF Division 3 softball title, Orozco was selected this week as the Division 3 Player of the Year. She finished the season with a 20-2 record, and she went 5-0 during the playoffs, holding four opponents to one run or less. In the final against rival La Serna, Orozco limited the Lancers to just two hits.
“She really did peak (in the postseason),” said St. Paul coach Jim Maier, “and it was all due to her confidence. She really peaked at the right time.”
CIF didn’t forget about Maier, who was selected Division 3 Coach of the Year after leading St. Paul to the title in the first season of his second stint with the school. The Swordsmen finished with a 28-4-1 record and closed the season on a 15-game winning streak.
Other Whittier-area players honored by CIF:
Division 2

Annie DiPillo, La Mirada, Senior
Division 3
Lovie Lopez, St. Paul, Senior
Taylor Becerra, La Serna, Junior
Jamie Wren, La Serna, Junior
Division 5
Alyssa Soneff, Montebello, Senior
Division 6
Amanda Garcia, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Senior
Anissa Loera, Cantwell-Sacred Heart, Senior
Division 2

Blake Wilson, La Mirada, Senior
Division 3
Aaron Pinto, St. Paul, Senior
Division 4
Daniel Alvarez, Cal, Junior

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Evans, Barriere shine in 7-on-7 workout at La Habra

A pair of the Whittier area’s brightest football prospects were on display Thursday when Whittier Christian traveled to La Habra for some 7-on-7 work.
Whittier Christian senior receiver Noah Evans and La Habra junior quarterback Eric Barriere were both outstanding during the drills, which also included Los Amigos High. Evans, at 6-4 and 230 pounds, showed off his sure hands and excellent routes throughout the workout. With his superior size, Evans kept defenders at bay while rising high for several balls over his head, and only dropped one pass that he had a reasonable chance to bring in.
“It’s hard (for defenders) to get around him,” Whittier Christian coach Sergio Gradillo said.
Herald quarterbacks Cooper Hughes and Joe Hernandez alternated series, and both looked good at times as the team worked a few wrinkles into its offense.
“We’re still running the spread and no-huddle,” Gradillo said, “but it’s a little different.”
Barriere consistently made excellent throws downfield and spread the ball around to Edrick Flores, Prince Ross and Amon Fellows. He also showed good patience by finding receivers on shorter routes when the deep pass was covered.
Sophomore backup Joey Gutierrez was also impressive while working with the second stringers.
“He’s battling with Eric, as he should be,” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said. “All I ask him to do is compete.”

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Cantwell, Schurr coaches find positives in 7-on-7 meeting

Cantwell-Sacred Heart’s football team showed off some serious speed while Schurr had several skill position players perform well when the teams met in 7-on-7 play Wednesday on Cantwell’s campus.
Cardinal senior Jean Lue Dauphiney displayed some serious separation speed during drills, taking several short passes around the corner and pulling away from defenders. For the Spartans, senior receivers Tristan Rojas and Andrew Rosales made several nice catches against the defense of Cantwell and Marshall Fundamental, which also participated.
“Our timing is improving slowly,” said Schurr coach Marco Ramirez, “and Tristan and Andrew played well. They’re taking (forward) strides every day.”
Dauphiney was on the receiving end of several Matthew Valencia passes Wednesday, and CSHM coach Kim Taylor hopes an improved passing attack will loosen up defenses that routinely used nine run-stopping defenders against the tailback last season.
“That’s gonna be a big factor for us,” Taylor said.
Taylor was disappointed, however, by a brief dust up between the Cardinals and Spartans following a play when Schurr was on offense. It began with two players but soon involved the majority of each team and coaching staff, although it was quickly difused. Following the drills, Taylor apologized to Ramirez.
“(The 7-on-7) went well for us, but what I didn’t like was the (skirmish) with Schurr,” Taylor said.
Cantwell will host different schools each Wednesday in 7-on-7 play.

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Summer football heating up for area squads

Summer football preparations will continue this week for several Whittier-area teams with passing league and 7-on-7 competition.
At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Schurr will make the short drive across Montebello to visit Cantwell-Sacred Heart. On Thursday, another short road trip will take Whittier Christian across Beach Boulevard to La Habra for summer competition. Also Thursday, Cal will visit Mayfair and Whittier will host Bellflower. On Saturday, La Serna will travel to Saugus.
Later this summer, El Rancho will host the Rumble at the Ranch on July 12, which will feature teams from across Southern California, including St. Bonaventure, San Clemente, Bonita and Palmdale. St. Paul will visit defending state Open Division champion St. John Bosco on July 15 and La Mirada will host Long Beach Poly in a combined practice that will feature 1-on-1 drills, 7-on-7 passing and 11-on-11 work as well.

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The five best moments of the 2013-14 prep season around Whittier

From September to June, high school athletes from around the Whittier area provided some thrilling moments for fans to enjoy. Memories that stand out include a game-winning last-second 3-point basket by Abel Ramirez that led to Cal to a thrilling 52-51 Del Rio League victory over Pioneer, and Cassandra Hair’s put-back bucket in the final seconds at home that helped Whittier rally for a 53-52 triumph over Santa Fe.
During baseball season, Santa Fe and La Serna played 11 scoreless innings in the rain before the Chiefs scored twice in the top of the 12th for a 2-0 victory and an early share of first place in the DRL. And in the season opener for both teams, St. Paul opened edged Santa Fe 6-5 thanks to a walk-off hit by freshman Julian Sansores. Just minutes before, the Chiefs’ Eli Ledesma tied the game with a home run to right field.
On the softball field, St. Paul ended years of Del Rey League frustration by sweeping rival Bishop Amat in three games, including a 10-7 marathon at York Field that clinched a share of the league crown.
But some moments separated themselves from the others, either with thrilling endings or come-from-behind performances or by sheer competitive nature.
Here are the top five:
Click here to see Whittier Christian volleyball photo gallery

5. Whittier Christian’s girls volleyball team lost the first set of its CIF Division 2A semifinal against Troy in the Warriors’ raucous gym. But behind 26 kills from senior Kylee Wolfe, the Heralds fought back for a 19-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-19 victory. Four days later, they swept Mayfield to claim their second consecutive 2A crown and began a state tournament run that was only ended by eventual state finalist Corona Santiago.

4. What ended as the best playoff run ever for the boys basketball team at Cantwell-Sacred Heart actually began with heartbreaking loss against the best team in the state. The Cardinals opened the CIF postseason in the highly competitive Open Division, and they nearly knocked off unbeaten Mater Dei. Senior guard E.J. Mejia made 4 of 7 3-point shots and finished with 18 points as CSHM took Mater Dei to overtime, the only team to do so all year. The Monarchs eventually pulled out a 66-59 victory on their home floor, but not before Cantwell put a huge scare into the Mater Dei faithful. The Cardinals eventually qualified for the Division 4 state tournament and eventually reached the Southern California final, losing to eventual state champ Bishop Montgomery. After barely surviving against CSHM, Mater Dei ended the season at 35-0 and claimed its fourth consecutive state title.

Photos of La Serna’s CIF final victory in girls water polo

3. La Serna’s girls water polo team avenged its loss to Troy in the CIF Division 4 championship game a year earlier by claiming a thrilling 5-4 sudden-death triumph in a finals rematch in March. The teams ended regulation tied at 3, and each scored once in overtime to force the sudden-death period. Both teams turned away a scoring chance by the other, including a shot by Troy’s Marissa Vaccher that rebounded off the inside of the post. But Lancers freshman Carissa Perez took a cross-pool pass from Bella Villa and ended the affair with a lob shot over the outstretched arms of Troy goalie Jessica Harris. Senior goalie Jacqui Verdugo was also outstanding for the Lancers, turning away a 5-meter penalty shot in the first half and several point-blank attempts in the second.

Click here to see photos from the St. Paul-La Serna CIF softball final

2. The softball teams from St. Paul and La Serna officially ended the season with a 2-2 record against each other, but the Swordsmen earned the most important victory of the season, a 2-1 decision in the CIF Division 3 final. St. Paul senior pitcher Koreen Orozco was brilliant all day, allowing the Lancers just two hits while inducing 17 ground ball outs. Krystal Gutierrez got the Swordsmen on the board with a first-inning double off La Serna ace Jamie Wren, and Niko Walker added a sacrifice fly later that brought in Bryanna Campos. The title was the first for St. Paul since 1988, and a few days later they were selected the State Division III Team of the Year by CalHi Sports.

Click here for the La Serna-Norwalk photo gallery

1. La Serna’s 41-38 double overtime football victory over Norwalk in the CIF Southeast Division final was, quite simply, one of the most exciting sporting events I’ve ever covered, at any level. With La Serna quarterback Frankie Palmer and Norwalk super back Rashaad Penny leading the way, both teams played spectacularly. Penny scored four TDs – two on the ground and two through the air – and finished with 211 total yards. Palmer added three touchdowns of his own on 105 rushing yards, and he also scored a 2-point conversion late in the fourth quarter that forced OT. But his finest play came on fourth down in the second overtime period, with his team trailing by three points. The senior dropped back and first looked to his left for an open receiver. Seeing no one, he rolled right and found Matthew Rosales wide open for a 19-yard touchdown that gave La Serna its first CIF football title since 1967. La Serna tied the score in the fourth after Tony Ceron blocked a Norwalk field goal attempt, and Kevin Ramos returned the ball 75 yards for a TD.

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