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Fall 2016 Sports Season Team by Team Recap

Frank Dariano
Webb Football
The 2016 season ended on a high mark for The Webb School of California varsity football team. The Gauls won their final two games by a combined 38 points. The wins over San Joaquin League foes Fairmont Prep and Capistrano Valley Christian gave the Gauls a 2-3 league record. The team finished the year 4-6. Head Coach Amahl Thomas called “responding positively to negativity” the team’s biggest accomplishment; “we did a great job responding to turnovers [and] bad series, we finished the season on a high note because our senior leaders kept guys focused, and we got a lot tougher this year.”

After fundamentals cost Webb its season opener, a 37-2 loss to Campbell Hall, the Gauls responded with a 55-0 trouncing of Western Christian. Back-to-back road losses to La Quinta and Garey left the Gauls 1-3. But for its annual Friday Night Lights game, Webb played a tough first half against Upland Christian. A 97-yard touchdown drive for Webb early in the 2nd quarter tied the game. The Gauls never trailed again, winning 48-14 before a huge crowd at Faculty Field. It was the game in which the Gauls ‘found their swag again’ as Coach Thomas put it. The Gauls then continued to play teams that were often bigger than them closer later in the game. They were down 17-14 to Southlands Christian before the Eagles pulled away and won 38-20. Then there was the heartbreaking loss to Santa Clarita Christian on October 6th. The Gauls played a close game from end to end, but a fumble on the game’s final play preserved a 35-23 Cardinals win. Through those games, sophomore transfer Nick Johnson ’19 stepped into the quarterback’s spot and began to click with the Webb offense. Senior Day coincided with Alumni Weekend and 10 Gauls put on pads for the last time at Faculty Field. Eventual San Joaquin League Champ Saddleback Valley Christian was too much for Webb. The final scoreboard favored the Warriors 41-14. The game also saw the return of starting quarterback Ryan Place ’18. The final wins of the season were, as coach Thomas said, “a great exclamation point, we hit our groove.”

Webb’s seniors dominate the 2016 stats sheet. Apollo Thomas finished with an astonishing 137 tackles and 14.5 sacks. He also caught six touchdown passes on the year. Spencer Stewart was always a force, averaging 11 tackles per game. Adrian Alvarez and Nick Jung cemented their roles as the Gauls’ key receivers.  Jung’s acrobatic catches netted him 651 yards receiving to lead the team while Alvarez, ever the emotional player, was the team leader with 53 catches. Both caught nine touchdowns. An offensive line that started the season as the Gauls’ biggest concern became a strong group thanks to senior leadership from Andy Christiansen and Johnson Li. Coach Thomas said his seniors “did a good job of showing guys how to lead, but Ryan Place will bring back leadership.”
On offense, the running game was a struggle all year, but in the final two games Ryan Place’s move from quarterback to tailback gave the Gauls reason to cheer. Thomas says he plans to keep Nick Johnson at quarterback next season, though J.J. Cunningham ’19 could well leave his mark. The Gauls will have plenty more talented players back who made their mark in 2016, including juniors Spencer Easley, Steven Abouchedid, and Ryan Vidales, sophomores Simon Dawson, Matt Martinez, Juan Pablo Caldernoi and Luke Gonzalez, and freshmen Ryan Bridges, and Chris Halliburton. Thomas says he wants to push more time in the weight room and building depth as the team prepares for 2017. He says the San Joaquin league will be “up for grabs” and he’s excited.
 
WSC Water Polo 
The 2016 Webb School of California varsity water polo season started off intense and busy. The Gauls played 14 games the first 19 days of the fall season, including two weekend tournaments. A 4-10 start was difficult, with eventual Academy League MVP Mitchell Fargo ’17 generating most of the offense and fellow senior Max Sapozkhov working to find his stride in goal.

Will Donahue ’18 returned from an injury for a tough match with San Marino on September 20th. The Gauls rallied from 12-4 down in the final 10 minutes of the game, only to have a last second Mitchell Fargo shot sail just above the cage. Webb lost the game 12-11. During one postgame interview, senior Stephen Silides stressed the importance of not relying on “the Mitchell Fargo show” for the Gauls’ success.
As October arrived, The Gauls found their second season. Webb went 7-3 over its final ten regular season games. It was a period that saw Fargo named Male Athlete of the week by the Inland Empire Daily Bulletin, and finish second in a weeklong vote for the best male high school athlete in the Los Angeles-area during the first week in October. He finished second despite being the only non-football athlete in the running! The Gauls swept the Academy League and ensured its second straight league title with a thrilling 9-8 win at Sage Hill on October 25th. Late season non-league matchups, including home losses to Chino and Rancho Cucamonga and a road win at Los Altos, furthered prepared the Gauls for CIF playoffs.

 The Gauls ended the season with a loss to Aliso Niguel in its opening round game of the CIF Playoffs. Coach Howie Kalter says Aliso was “really good at taking advantage of our timid offense.” Ejections for both Mitchell Fargo and Will Donahue only made things tougher. But Kalter remains optimistic for the future of the team. Of the season, he was impressed with the Gauls’ “concerted effort to go in everyday and learn from their mistakes.” As far as a signature moment, Kalter pointed to amazing saves by Max Saphozkhov and his reaction; “he’ll yell something in Russian, the whole team gets behind him and it fires us up more than anything.”

Mitchell Fargo ’17 ended the season as Academy League MVP, an honor he says he’s “dreamt of working towards ever since freshman year.” He finished with an incredible 122 goals, 72 draws, and 98 steals. He is one of seven graduating seniors from this team. But those seniors are optimistic for the team they are leaving behind. Stephen Silides ’17 says he’s hoping the underclassmen “step up and approach next season with the same enthusiasm they had this season.” Kalter says this years’ seniors excelled to fill holes left by graduating seniors adding “if anything I’m encouraged that we can come back and fill big shoes again.” Will Donahue, who will be one of the Gauls’ leaders in 2017, says he will “miss playing with them…a lot.” The Gauls ended the season 11-14.

VWS Volleyball      
Like several other fall teams, Vivian Webb Varsity volleyball had two seasons in one in 2016. The Gauls faced the challenge of filling key roles, including middle blocker and setter. While team captain Jordan Fuelling ’17 started the Gauls offense nicely along with fellow seniors Elyse Morris and Jessica Renfrew, the Gauls struggled to find their stride. Back-to-back weekend tournaments in mid-September gave Webb a schedule in which they played 12 games in just over three weeks. But those busy weeks laid the groundwork for an impressive statistical season for several Gauls. Libero Britany Marticorena ’18 racked up 178 digs in 2016. Morris and Jessica Renfrew both ended the season with over 100 digs, and Morris had 152 kills.

The Gauls closed September and opened October with a 2-1 start in San Joaquin League play, including a much-needed sweep victory of Connelly on September 29th.   It was a game in which, as coach Destinee Sales saw it, the Gauls started to lead one another: “they talked about the promises they were going to make about on and off the court what it means to be a leader.” Sales said the win gave her players “a standard” to live up to regarding their play.

The Gauls continued to respond to adversity. A tough five set loss at Tarbut V’Torah on October 6th was followed up with another 3-0 sweep at Connelly. Then, in perhaps the tensest home game of the season, Webb outlasted Fairmont Prep 3-2 in a five-set marathon. Tough losses at Saddleback Valley Christian and at home on senior night to Upland Christian also prepared the Gauls for the postseason.
Senior night was an especially heartfelt night for Vivian Webb. The Gauls played with seven seniors in 2016. That night, motivated by a packed Les Perry Gymnasium crowd and their own kind words to one another during the pregame Senior Sendoff, the Gauls cruised to a 25-15 set one victory. While Upland Christian would win the match 3-1, senior Jordan Fuelling said that night was about leaving a legacy “this was about looking at the juniors and saying, this is what we expect of you, this is the type of play we expect you to have next year, and on your senior night.” The last few weeks of the season saw a resurgence in the underclassmen, particularly Anam Zaidi ’18 teaming with Emily “Mei Mei” Chu ’17 to give the Gauls a strong presence at the net. Allegra McDermott ‘18 showed promise as the Gauls starting setter, though Jessica Renfrew ’17 would take that role on for playoffs.

The Gauls opened CIF playoffs with a 3-0 sweep of Vista Del Lago on November 1st. Assistant coach Jim Dahler thought his girls “were very calm during the whole match, they passed really well.” The Gauls’ season would end two days later with a 3-0 loss to Archer School for Girls. It was a night where coach Destinee Sales gave her girls a message: “play for something bigger than yourself.” Perhaps that was best shown in what Sales dubbed the highlight of the season for her. Down 24-17, and trailing 2-0 in the match, Webb scored five straight points before Archer scored again for the win. “It was the best way to go out” said Elyse Morris ’17.

Jordan Fuelling capped an incredible season (261 kills, 238 digs, 56 aces) by signing a scholarship to play division one NCAA volleyball for The University of Hartford. The third of three sisters to play volleyball for the Gauls, Jordan is the first person in her family to earn a D1 scholarship. She called the 2016 season “amazing” and said it was great motivation for her:
“I wanted to go into this season remembering I was going to make volleyball my life for the next four years, [telling myself] you’re going to pour your heart and soul into this so you might as well start now.” Fuelling wasn’t the only division one athlete on the team, as Elyse Morris will play softball for St. John’s University in New York starting next year. Vivian Webb ended the season 9-15.    

VWS Tennis
                Vivian Webb Varsity Tennis’ 2016 season saw a dramatic rise in success. After a 2-5 start, the Gauls put together a 5-1 San Joaquin League record and captured the regular season and league tournament championships. As head coach Ron Martinez put it in an email near season’s end, the Gauls exceeded all expectations: “If you would have asked me how we were going to do this season, I would
have thought that we would be lucky if we squeaked out a 2nd or 3rd in league.  Getting 1st in league, I would never have thought that.......Now if you told me that we would have the top player of the year, I would think you were kidding.” Well that’s exactly what Vivian Webb had this year in Thea Kirkpatrick ’18, who went 10-4 in 2016 as Webb’s number one singles player.
 
               Beginning with a win hosting South Hills on September 16th, VWS went on a 7-3 run that led to its third consecutive San Joaquin League title. The Gauls were co-champs this year with Fairmont Prep. The Gauls’ 10-8 win over the Huskies on October 18th was perhaps their biggest of the season.  
 
               During the regular season, while Kirkpatrick was dominating singles play, fellow co-captain Katie Hawkes ’17 was having a phenomenal doubles season. She and partner Emily Schoffmann ’19, whom Hawkes called “solid as a rock”, rolled to an 18-0 record in the regular season as Webb’s number one doubles duo. But on a team that will graduate just two seniors (Hawkes and Annika Desai), the Gauls’ sophomores and juniors began to step into consistent starting roles. Cindy Zhang ’19 put together a 6-6 record playing singles two and three. Fellow sophomores Katie Evanilla and Winona Dodds became VWS’ solid number three doubles team, going 5-3 on the year.
 
               On October 26th and 27th, Vivian Webb played in the San Joaquin League playoffs in Newport Beach. Despite her regular season prowess, Thea Kirkpatrick entered as the number three seed in singles. In the semis, she faced Tarbut V’Torah’s Peytra Klein, who gave Webb fits in 2015. But Thea beat Klein in straight sets and later said that “getting past that…was really just an awesome experience, my team supported me so much.” The following day, she defeated Fairmont Prep’s Claire Chen and went on to be named League MVP. Coach Ron Martinez says he was “floored” at his team’s performance. On the doubles’ side, Katie Hawkes and Emily Schoffmann made their way to the finals, but Katie Evanilla and Winona Dodds faced a higher road to get there. It took three-and-a-half hours for the two sophomores to defeat the number two seeded team from Fairmont Prep. Coach Martinez gave the girls the weekend to rest, and deservedly so. Halloween saw a historic all-Webb league doubles final on campus between the two Gauls pairings, with Hawkes and Schoffmann coming out on top.  
 
               VWS’ season came to an end with a first-round CIF playoff loss to Flintridge Prep on November 2nd. Still, Kirkpatrick, Dodds, and Evanilla will represent the Gauls in CIF individuals on November 21st. As for 2017, with only two seniors graduating, Coach Martinez says “we’ll do just as well next year if not better…more experience, more time hitting…. they’ve already said they don’t want to stop practicing.” Hawkes agrees, saying “I think the team is going to do really great next year and that’s all I wanted to leave…a team that was better than when we came in.” The Gauls end the season 10-8.
 
VWS Golf
 
                In its third year of existence, Vivian Webb’s varsity golf team reached new heights in 2016. The Gauls set new high marks in wins (6), league wins (4), and number of players (13). Head Coach Gabriel Sanchez says he was “ecstatic” at the team’s progress in 2016.
 
               Webb began the season with a 4-2 record and won several very close matches. The Gauls defeated Valley Christian by 12 strokes, Alhambra by eight strokes, and Azusa by 10 strokes. League play brought new challenges and the Gauls. Webb finished the season on a 2-4 stretch, including one sided losses to Rowland, South Pasadena, and Gabrielino. But during that stretch, the Gauls produced one of the better stories of sportsmanship of the fall season. The girls offered to go to dinner with a team that had reportedly been having a hard time getting along with other teams. That Korean barbecue dinner took place on October 13th. Coach Sanchez called it “the true meaning of sports, and the VWS girls lead the way.” 
 
VWS’ season ended considerably earlier than the rest of Webb’s fall teams. The Gauls were eliminated in the league prelims on October 17th. Still, it was no reason to stop practicing, and the team continued to spend afternoons at Marshall Canyon in La Verne on the putting green and driving range. WSC Golf head coach Andrew Neyer joined the team as an assistant coach, and Sanchez said having him “on board helped because he lives near the girls has a great golf background, we are trying to expand the program together.” That expansion should only continue, as VWS will only graduate three seniors, Kitty He, Celine Chen, and Brene Malekow. Sanchez awarded his coaches award to Doris Wang ’18, saying she “will do anything I ask her to do.” When asked about most improved players, he pointed to freshman Cecelia Liu and sophomore Crystal Zhu for their “great attitudes.” VWS ends the season at 6-7.

Webb Cross Country
By far the most dominant Webb team of the fall, cross country’s season was highlighted by Raphael Huang ‘17’s selection as San Joaquin League Most Valuable Runner. Huang won the varsity boys race in the league championshipwith an astounding time of 16:41, a full 30 seconds faster than the second-place runner. Webb junior Jackson Bibbens came in fourth with a time of 17:16. The five other Webb runners finished in seventh through eleventh place, and Kevin Wang ’18 won the junior varsity race. The Gauls claimed their third straight league title as a team. Vivian Webb won its second consecutive San Joaquin League title. Webb’s top runner was Sarah Hebb ’18, who finished in third place in the varsity race with a time of 21:27. Anne Lofgren ’19 finished 14 seconds behind her in fourth place, while Anissa Medina ’18 came in fifth (22:03).

That incredible victory at season’s end was made possible in part by a difficult early season schedule. The Gauls cited the September 20th league cluster race at St. Michaels Prep, and the September 24th Bel-Jef invitational as being some of the most challenging courses of the year. That training showed up well when Webb hosted the second league cluster on October 6th. The Webb boys defended their home course, winning with an average time of 17:25. In the girls’ varsity race,
Webb’s team average of 22:13 was an astonishing 38 seconds faster than second place Samueli Academy, and the Gauls claimed victory at home.
 
One week later, the Gauls joined hundreds of other schools competing in the world’s largest cross country meet, the annual Mt. SAC Invitational. The varsity boys race had 132 runners alone. Raphael Huang finished in second with a time of 16:53 and said starting the race with that many runners “gets you hyped so when you get tired you keep wanting to push [yourself].” As a team, the varsity boys took third place, with Liam Gerken ’20 finishing 18th, Jackson Bibbens ’18 finishing 21st, and Kellen Whitmore ’20 finishing 22nd. Other races for Webb were: Raian Ohtaka ’19 (33rd), Jonas Gerken ’17 (37th), and Willy Martinez ’19 (55th). The Vivian Webb team finished ninth in the varsity race. Anne Lofgren ’19 was the Gauls top runner with a time of 23:36 (41st overall). Anya Vincent ’18 finished with a time of 27:46 (103rd overall) and said the toughest part of the race was “this last hill, Reservoir Hill, because you’re already so tired from the first two.”
 
Webb sent a bevy of runners to the CIF playoffs meet in Riverside on November 12th. Both the WSC and VWS teams advanced to the CIF Finals to be held on Saturday, November 19th in Riverside.
 
              
 
 
 
 
 
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