High school athletes are ready as spring sports begin
The sports fields at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools became overwhelmed with athletes Feb. 6 as the spring sports season practices officially kicked off.
With over 1,300 students in Pleasanton playing spring prep sports it is easily the busiest time of year for athletic activities at the local high schools. Almost one-third of the schools' enrollment takes part in spring sports, counting freshman through the varsity teams.
League action starts in March, with the majority of the sports wrapping up with the North Coast Section playoffs in late May.
Following are brief breakdowns of all the varsity sports in the spring.
It will be a different team out on the field for Amador Valley this year as the Dons will send out nine new varsity starters for coach Lou Cesario.
Overall, Amador will have 12 new players on the squad, but an off-season where they worked hard in the weight room gives Cesario plenty to be optimistic about.
The strength of the team may be on the mound where the Dons will go seven-eight deep. Jimmy Doyle, Ryan Foley, Michael Echavia and Jonathon Camello all return this year and will be joined by newcomer Sam Nathan on the hill.
Daniel Jackson at catcher is also new to the varsity this year.
For the Foothill players and coach Angelo Scavone, it was a time of excitement when the official practices finally got going.
Leading the way for the Falcons this year are five key players.
Dylan Hecht is a 6-foot-2 right-handed pitcher that will be heading to UC Santa Barbara next season. Jake Jefferies is a three-year starter for the Falcons, with the 6-1 athlete heading to collegiate powerhouse Cal State Fullerton next season.
Brandon Viceral is another three-year starter, with big things expected as well from outfielder Matt Bati and junior catcher Dylan Isquirdo.
Amador Valley will have the target on its back this year following its NCS title to top off a 22-5 season last year that saw the Dons allow but one run in its three NCS games.
Leading the way is returning MVP of the East Bay Athletic League -- junior Krista Williams. Williams will anchor the outfield for the Dons but is also very solid as a pitcher. Sophomore Johanna Grauer will be tasked with being the ace of the staff in the circle.
Three seniors in Nicole Borchatd (all-EBAL), Jess McKeehan (all-EBAL) and Zoe Price will show the way in terms of leadership and offensive prowess.
Another sophomore -- Ashley Lotoszyski -- is set at short and also provides a solid bat in the lineup.
Foothill will be a young team -- six sophomores and one junior will be in the starting lineup -- but it will be a team with some experience despite its youth.
Returning seniors Kim Beaudin and Natalie Tiongco will be counted on for their leadership for the young but talented lot. Sophomore Jasiah Gholston, who played for the varsity last year, will get the bulk of the work in the circle.
Junior Lelia Meyers and sophomores Sami Spain, Jana Johnson, Roni Stone and Marissa Dondero will also be key players for the Falcons this year.
The EBAL is strong across the board in all sports, but perhaps none as much as in lacrosse. Last year five teams in the league were at times ranked in the top 10 in California.
This season it appears to be business as usual as the top five teams -- including Amador and Foothill -- will lead the state.
Amador will bring to the table a mixture of experience and talented younger players this season.
In the back, three players will set the tone for the Amador defense. Senior Richie Miranda, junior Jordan Cain and sophomore Connor Veit will be the leaders. Alex Sohn and Zach Beata are the goalies.
In the midfield a trio of seniors in Toby Harvey, Daniel Wessel and David Bush are the key players for the Dons. Up front senior Dan Israel and junior Jeff Snyder figure to be the top goal scorers.
Foothill will be young this year but still figures to be among the top tier teams in the league.
Hit hard by graduation, the Falcons will be led from the back by senior goalie Patrick Shevelson, one of the top goalies in Northern California. Up front, look for junior Jerome Rigor to be among the top players in the league.
In the midfield Mike Barbier, another junior, will be joined by fellow juniors Brandon Becker, Zach Wilhite and Elijah Caluya.
On defense, senior Dalton Winn and juniors George Curtis, Collin Dal Porto and Justin Gibson all return and will be tasked with keeping some of the heat off Shevelson.
Amador should have another solid team after advancing to the NCS playoffs last year.
Molly Grozier and Allie DaCar -- both sophomores -- split time in the goal last year and both have turned in time between the pipes for the NorCal U-15 team that participated in the U.S. National Championships.
Other players who could make a difference this season for the Dons are sophomore Evan Murphy and junior Justine Chinn.
Foothill used a balanced team attack at the NCS finals last year, but lost the very talented Emily Klein to graduation.
There still figures to be plenty in the tank for the Falcons to make another run in the postseason.
Laura Klein, Alexa Milus, Bryanna Miller, Jessica Klahr, Meghana Vijayraghavan and Alyssa Keiner all figure to have very good seasons for the Falcons.
It will be a season where both Amador and Foothill will look to establish an identity after being hit hard by graduation, but with solid coaching and talented younger players, both schools figure to be right in the mix.
Amador lost five of its starters last year and could have as few as two seniors on the team, but there is reason for hope.
Junior Ryan Genn returns after a great sophomore season and a very productive summer on the club team circuit. Genn can excel at any of the three hitter positions or at setter, all of which he did last season.
Roy Xue is a junior outside hitter, senior Davis Tadevich is set as a middle, and senior Kyle Meyer will be the libero for the Dons.
Foothill returns only four players to the varsity team, but if there is a coach in the area who can pull together a solid team, it is Falcons coach Dusty Collins.
The four returning players are setter Matt Lee, middle hitter Jared Layton and outside hitters Alex Yeo and Philip Zhang.
Boys track and field
Amador Valley will find strength on the track in the middle distances as a host of returners lead the way.
Stanford-bound senior Nick Bayler will join other returning runners juniors Darnel Roberson and Josh Slaton as three-quarters of a very strong 1,600 meter relay team
Jeff Chen and Terrance Cheng will compete for the other spot. Sophomore Conner McKinnon will be someone to watch in the 800 this year. Sam Peters and Matt Macapagal will both be key members of the team as well.
In the throws, the Dons should get plenty of help from Matt Esparza, Jesse Cerdes and Nate Vickers.
The Dons should also be solid in the pole vault behind the talent of Andy Kim and Nick Zollinger.
The Falcons will bring a number of athletes into battle with first-year coach Jorge Quero.
On the track, Andrew Chang, Nico Quero and John Li should lead the sprinters, with Ken Ohhashi taking on the hurdles. Jared Shofhi will handle the middle distance races.
In the field events, Devin Wieker looks strong in the long jump, with Cameron Vaughan a top triple jumper. Matt Beach will be the top in the discus for the Falcons.
Girls track and field
For Amador, Jena Pianin will be a versatile runner who will probably focus on the 3,200 once the post-season rolls around.
Nicole Fetsch, who also plays club soccer in the spring, is one of the top sprinters for the Dons this season.
In the throws Monica Acton and Tara Park have worked hard in the off season and seem ready for big years.
The Foothill girls' team seems to have some depth this year.
Hannah Rajs, Hailey Lukas, Emmy Rodriguez, Precious Akanyirige and Adria Revell make up the talented and deep sprint corps. Mackenzie Muller is the top hurdler for the Falcons.
Shannon Easley will lead the way in the middle distance races, with Annie Geasa setting the pace in the distance events.
In the jumps, Keianne Yamada, Rachel Reichenbach and Sara Medor will look to score points, with Rose Doylemanson leading the way in the throws.
Boys swimming and diving
Amador will be led by a quartet of performers this season.
There are three juniors leading the way in the pool as Jason Chen, Bryan Hughes and Nick Johnston will be joined by sophomore Kevin McLaughlin to pace the Dons in the swimming events.
When it comes to diving, the Dons are led by junior Pierson Connors.
Foothill's top swimmers at this point in the season are Tony Shen, Brian Li and Andrew Goard.
Girls swimming and diving
The Amador girls will come into the season with seven key athletes, all of which are underclassmen.
Freshmen Iris Brand, Eva Chung and Rachel Knowles will be joined by sophomores Lillian Sun and Cate MacGregor, as well as junior Kirsten Brand, to lead the way in the swimming events.
Junior Haley Brott and sophomore Lauren Hall are the top divers for the Dons. Hall is the defending NCS champion.
For Foothill, it starts with Celina Li. Among the elite nationally, Li cruised to NCS titles in both the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly.
Other top swimmers for the Falcons along with Li are Cayla Jetter, Stephanie Doi and Bridget Moran.
Amador Valley figures to be right in the mix again this year as the Dons return a host of golfers for coach Clark Fuller.
Senior Paul Bommarito, along with juniors Sam Richardson, Hussain Ali, Patrick Duffy and Zac Hart, and sophomores Zach Smith and Alec Bommarito all return for Fuller.
The Dons are also picking up some quality additions in seniors Colt Stewart and Jack Richardson; juniors Mike Smith and Justin Hewitt; and sophomores Austin Riley and Matt Micheletti.
Foothill was third in the state last year and with the majority of the team coming back, it is realistic to expect the Falcons have a shot at winning it all this year.
Nicolo Galletti, who tied for the state individual title last year, and Brett Thawley will lead the talented group in their quest not only for EBAL and NCS titles, but a state crown as well.
But the Foothill talent level does not stop after the first two, as three more all-EBAL players return: Travis Rowney, Roshan Chekuri and sophomore Tanner Hughes. Hughes was fifth in the state last year.
Freshman Ryan Knop figures to be a factor right away. Sophomores Ryan Maund and Ryan Gronlund, and junior Pat Fracisco also will look to get the Falcons back to state this year.
The EBAL may be a shootout this year with at least half the teams in the league having a shot at winning the title.
Amador may have the most depth in the league as coach Bill Nandor sends out his most senior-laden team in his tenure at Amador Valley.
Grant Loud is a returning captain for the Dons and along with players like Dev Rishi, Sai Ramineni, Jake Lorentz, Michael Lowe and Akshay Bommireddi, the Dons may make their best run at the top spot in the EBAL in some time.
Foothill will be led by junior Chris Wen. Last year as a sophomore, Wen lost but once at the No. 2 spot for the Falcons and figures to make a run at the league singles title.
Karthik Udayappan will move from No. 3 to No. 2 this year and, like Wen, he lost but once at No. 3 last year. Senior Waleed Khan has been a consistent singles player the last couple of years for the Falcons, with Carl Hills -- a sophomore -- showing great athletic ability as he makes the move up from the junior varsity team.