By DAVE THOMAS
As summer prepares to turn to fall in a few weeks, varsity fall sports teams at both Grossmont High School and Helix Charter High School are quite active.
La Mesa Courier caught up recently with some of the respective head coaches to get their takes on key leaders and how their teams may do this season.
At Grossmont High School, several teams will be looking to make a statement this fall both on the local and state levels.
In girls’ volleyball, the Foothillers went 5-20 overall and 1-9 in league play last season.
Head Coach Grace Campbell will be looking to seniors Isabel Curtin (Libero), Chloe Curtis (outside hitter) and Kylan Hobart (middle blocker) to lead the way.
“With the competitive leadership from my seniors and my knowledgeable coaching staff, this program is destined to be successful,” Campbell commented. “We are very optimistic and excited for this upcoming season.”
In boys’ water polo, Grossmont went 19-9 a season ago and finished sixth in San Diego County (Open Division). The Foothillers won the San Diego Open tourney and placed fourth at the America’s Finest City Tournament.
“This year we have a strong senior class led by Brandon Case (utility), Jake Simpson (attacker), Thomas Lockhart (center) and Paxton George (goalie),” Head Coach Clint McLaughlin stated. “We also are expecting some big contributions from some of our juniors, Ryan Motta (utility) and Daniel Drake (center defender).”
According to McLaughlin, this group has played together for a long time and are hoping to compete for a league title and qualify for the Open Division in CIF again at the end of the year.
In girls’ golf, now graduated Carissa Freeman finished 11th at CIF’s last fall.
This year’s team looks to be lead by junior Erica Freeman and freshman Anabella Van Cotthem.
“We have a pretty solid team that will hopefully produce some wins and a possible league championship,” Head Coach Jim Earley stated. “The goal is for the ladies to get better and enjoy the game.”
In football, the Foothillers went 4-8 a season, ago finishing third in the Grossmont Hills League. GHS lost to Helix in the CIF Division I quarterfinals.
As for this season, the Foothillers will look to offensive keys Nick Parra (senior, left tackle), Aidan Abram (senior, left guard), Nolan Kelly (senior, wide receiver), Justin Brown (senior, wide receiver) and Hudson Herber (junior, quarterback).
On the defensive side of the ball, Grossmont turns to Josh Ferrara (junior, safety), Zelan Reynolds (junior, cornerback), Aaron Valdez (senior, outside linebacker), Josh Smith (senior, inside linebacker), Scott Roberts (senior, defensive lineman) and Thomas Smith (senior, defensive lineman).
On special teams, senior punter/kicker John Butcher leads the way.
“The Foothillers are looking to find a competitive edge weekly,” Head Coach Chris Holmes commented. “With a tough schedule, the Foothillers will be battle-tested as we open up league play and make a push for the D2 playoffs. The Hillers hope to rely on standout senior play, with ample support from our backups. The Hillers will need some young up-and-coming players to find a way to step up to make significant contributions weekly. Our goal is to finish each and every game; focusing on our growth as a team and not the scoreboard.”
In girls’ tennis, Grossmont went 10-7 overall a season ago, 4-4 in league play. GHS won its first-round CIF match last year before falling to Carlsbad in the second round.
According to Head Coach Hillary Park, top returnees this season are senior Ashley Smith, senior Sirirack Sukhaseum and sophomore Hannah Calimlim.
“We have a core group of girls who were on jayvee last year and improved in the off-season,” Park stated. “I expect they will add some depth to our squad.” Sophomore Averie Emery and senior Mikaela Nenn lead the way, while freshmen Jasmine Hollingsworth and Hailie Emery are also expected to contribute, according to Park.
“We were in the middle of the pack last year in league,” Park continued. “We had chances to beat rivals Valhalla and Steele Canyon but came up short. We have a few more weeks to get ready for league and I am sure our lineup will be changing as we work out doubles combos. But one thing is sure, Ashley Smith will be leading the way.”
Highlanders back in action
At Helix Charter High School, teams will also be looking to make a statement this fall both on the local and state levels.
In girls’ tennis, Helix went unbeaten in the Grossmont Valley League last season and had an overall record of 13-8, losing in the CIF Division III semifinals.
“The majority of our varsity team is returning this season, including our number one and number two singles players, senior Eleni Arapostathis and junior Brenda Arevalo,” Head Coach Daniel Potter stated. “We have high expectations this year. Our tennis program at Helix has been expanding rapidly. This year, we had more than 70 girls come out for the team and, thanks to support from the Helix administration, we were able to hire additional coaches and add a novice program. That way, we do not have to turn away any student who is willing to commit to the program and learn to play and appreciate tennis.”
In girls’ golf play, Helix went 2-8 a season ago. Helix under Head Coach Frank Theroux will compete this season in the Grossmont Conference – Hills League.
According to Theroux, top returners are juniors Rachel Biegenzahn and Emse Midgette.
“We have 13 girls on our roster, but we are a very young and inexperienced team this year,” Theroux stated. “The players have been working very hard in preparation of the 2022 season. Our team’s attitude and effort have been very impressive which should lead to a very positive 2022 season experience.”
In girls’ volleyball action, Helix finished 15-13 overall in 2021, going 5-5 in league action. Helix was ousted in the first round of CIF play.
According to Head Coach Zoe Varela-Beltz, key players in 2022 include the likes of senior Ella Giordano (outside hitter and middle blocker), junior Bella Barrios (setter, middle blocker, right side), junior Temukisa Sagiao (right side), senior Kylie Smith (Libero and DS), junior Giuliana Guarnotta (outside hitter) and junior Niloofar Jorbozeh (middle blocker).
“We are really excited this year to have so many returning players who know the game and understand the adjustments our team needs to make,” Varela-Beltz commented. “Our goal for the season is continuous improvement and to finish strong in our league and in the top of Division III. We have strong leadership from our seniors on and off the bench to help drive our program forward.”
Editor’s note: All fall varsity sports head coaches were asked to contribute information for this article.
— Reach editor Dave Thomas at: Dave@sdnews.com.